Skip to main content

Full text of "Italian art now : an American perspective : 1982 Exxon international exhibition"

See other formats

Italian Art Now: 

An American Perspective 

1982 Exxon International 


by Diane Waldman 

SULUIVlUiM n. ujuudWhll 

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York 


Italian Art Now: 

An American Perspective 

1982 Exxon International 


This exhibition is sponsored by Exxon Corporation 

Published by The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 1982 

ISBN: 0-89207-033-1 

Library of Congress Card Catalog Number: 81-86563 

c The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York, 1982 


president Peter O. Lawson-Johnston 
vice-president The Right Honorable Earl Castle Stewart 
trustees Anne L. Armstrong, Michel David-Weill, Joseph W. Donner, Robin Chandler Duke, John Hilson, 
Harold W. McGraw, Jr., Wendy L.-J. McNeil, Thomas M. Messer, Frank R. Milliken, A. Chauncey 
Newlin, Lewis T. Preston, Seymour Slive, Albert E. Thiele, Michael F. Wettach, William T. 

honorary trustees Solomon R. Guggenheim, Justin K. Thannhauser, Peggy Guggenheim 
in perpetuity 

advisory board Elaine Dannheisser, Susan Morse Hilles, Morton L. Janklow, Barbara Jonas, Bonnie Ward 
Simon, Stephen C. Swid 

staff Henry Berg, Counsel 

Theodore G. Dunker, Secretary-Treasurer; Aili Pontynen, Assistant Treasurer; Barry Bragg, 
Assistant to the Treasurer; Margaret P. Cauchois, Assistant; Veronica M. O'Connell 

director Thomas M. Messer 

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 

Diane Waldman, Deputy Director 

staff William M. Jackson, Administrator; Catherine Grimshaw, Administrative Assistant 

Louise Averill Svendsen. Senior Curator; Vivian Endicott Barnett, Research Curator; Lisa 

Dennison, Assistant Curator; Carol Fuerstein, Editor; Sonja Bay, Associate Librarian; Ward 

Jackson, Archivist; Susan B. Hirschfeld, Exhibitions Coordinator; Lucy Flint, 

Curatorial Coordinator 

Margit Rowell, Curator of Special Exhibitions 

Harold B. Nelson, Registrar; Jane Rubin, William J. Alonso, Assistant Registrars; Marion Kahan, 
Registrar's Coordinator; Saul Fuerstein, Preparator; William Smith, Joseph Montague, Prepara- 
tion Assistants; Stephanie Stitt, Technical Services Assistant; Scott A. Wixon, Operations 
Manager; Tony Moore, Assistant Operations Manager; Takayuki Amano, Head Carpenter; 
Carmelo Guadagno, Photographer; David M. Heald, Associate Photographer; Holly Fullam, 
Photography Coordinator; Elizabeth Estabrook, Conservation Coordinator 
Orrin H. Riley. Conservation Consultant 

Mimi Poser, Officer for Development and Public Affairs; Carolyn Porcelli, Ann Kraft, Develop- 
ment Associates; Susan L. Halper, Membership Associate; Jessica Schwartz, Public Affairs 
Associate; Cynthia Wootton, Development Coordinator; Michele Rowe-Shields, Public Affairs 
Coordinator; Linda Gering, Public Affairs Assistant; Susan Berger-Jones, Membership Assistant 

Cynthia M. Kessel, Personnel Associate; Agnes R. Connolly, Auditor; Stephanie Levinson, 
Sales Manager; James O'Shea, Sales Coordinator; Robert Turner, Restaurant Manager; Maria 
Masciotti, Assistant Restaurant Manager; Darrie Hammer, Katherine W. Briggs, Information; 
David A. Sutter. Building Superintendent; Charles Gazzola, Assistant Building Superintendent; 
Charles F. Banach, Head Guard; Elbio Almiron, Marie Bradley, Assistant Head Guards 
life members Eleanor, Countess Castle Stewart, Mr. and Mrs. Werner Dannheisser. William C. Edwards. Jr., 
Mr. and Mrs. Andrew P. Fuller, Mrs. Bernard F. Gimbel. Mr. and Mrs. Peter 0. Lawson-Johnston. 
Mrs. Samuel I. Rosenman, Mrs. S. H. Scheuer, Mrs. Hilde Thannhauser 

corporate patrons Alcoa Foundation. Atlantic Richfield Foundation. Exxon Corporation, Mobil Corporation, Philip 
Morris Incorporated 

government patrons National Endowment for the Arts. National Endowment for the Humanities. New York State 

Council on the Arts 

Lenders to the Exhibition 

Celine Bastian, Berlin 

Heiner Bastian, Berlin 

Sandro Chia 

Enzo Cucchi 

Barbara and Donald Jonas 

Nino Longobardi 

Roberta Maresca, Rome 

Erich Marx, Berlin 

Luigi Ontani 

Giuseppe Penone 

Vettor Pisani 

Luciano Pistoi, Turin 

Fabio Sargentini, Rome 

Robert A. Rowan, Los Angeles 

Gilberto Zorio 

Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre d'Art 
et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris 

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 

Salvatore Ala, Milan and New York 
Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples 
Galerie Bischofberger AG, Zurich 
Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London 
Paul Maenz, Cologne 
Sonnabend Gallery, New York 
Gian Enzo Sperone, New York 
Sperone Westwater Fischer, New York 

Table of Contents 

6 Preface and Acknowledgements 

Thomas M. Messer 

7 Acknowledgements 

Diane Waldman 

8 Introduction 

Diane Waldman 

10 Catalogue 

Essays by Lisa Dennison with Diane Waldman 


Sandro Chia 


Enzo Cucchi 


Nino Longobardi 


Luigi Ontani 


Giuseppe Penone 


Vettor Pisani 


Gilberto Zorio 


Photographic Credits 

Preface and Acknowledgements 

During the past decade the Guggenheim Museum 
has presented group shows of current art originat- 
ing in The Netherlands, France, Germany, Britain 
and Spain. It is, therefore, very much within the 
framework of a consistent institutional commitment 
to recent art production on the one hand, and to the 
art scene beyond New York and the United States 
on the other, that we now offer a comparable selec- 
tion of artists from Italy. In all these instances we 
have gratefully accepted guidance and suggestions 
from within the artists' country of origin, but have 
reserved for ourselves the final decisions regard- 
ing selection and organization of the exhibitions, 
thereby, of course, assuming full responsibility for 
both. In fact, decisions as well as responsibility 
have devolved upon the exhibition curator who, in 
the case of the current undertaking, is the Guggen- 
heim's Deputy Director, Diane Waldman. 

The system, if one may call it that, has not gone 
unchallenged, and advisors in the countries under 
consideration have protested at times that what is 
their art should be determined by them. On the sur- 
face this would not appear unreasonable, if only one 
could accept the idea that there exists both a de- 
finable contemporary national art and an individual 
capable of articulating it in the form of an exhibition. 
Since these premises seem far from established to 
us, we have felt obliged to limit our aspirations to 
the presentation of personal selections from abroad 
that are meant to reveal aspects of the art of a par- 
ticular nation. That such qualifying remarks are usu- 
ally ignored does not, we feel, invalidate them. 

Italian Art Now: An American Perspective, 1982 
Exxon International Exhibition thus represents a se- 
lection of artists, stringently restricted to no more 
than seven painters and sculptors, who, through the 
excellence of their current work, personify creative 
directions of particular interest to us. These direc- 
tions include contemporary modes of Italian ex- 
pressionism, whose roots are in the native Pittura 
Metalisica, in German Expressionism, in various in- 
ternational currents of fantastic art, as well as in 
postwar movements that occurred on both sides of 
the Atlantic (as exemplified by Sandro Chia, Enzo 
Cucchi and Nino Longobardi); a reductive style con- 

cerned with the articulation of space and concep- 
tual aesthetics based in Italian Arte Povera and 
other minimalist movements (Giuseppe Penone and 
Gilberto Zorio); and a complex expression that has 
developed out of Performance Art (Luigi Ontani 
and Vettor Pisani). Whereas the seven artists rep- 
resented here have been inspired by these wide- 
ranging precedents and share certain common 
characteristics, each transcends them to make his 
unique and personal contribution. 

Despite such variety, indicative of a broad and 
non-dogmatic attitude on the selector's part, it 
would be contrary to our experience with shows of 
current international art if Italian Art Now were to 
be greeted with unanimous approval. Therefore, we 
anticipate, instead, lively controversy and challenge 
of our choices as more realistic and ultimately more 
rewarding reactions to our exhibition. 

While our attention is initially focused upon the 
presentation of these seven Italian artists, first here 
and eventually at other American museums, our 
most important objective is the addition to the Gug- 
genheim's permanent collection of one work by 
each participant in the exhibition. In providing funds 
for the acquisition of paintings and sculptures in ad- 
dition to bearing the exhibition and catalogue costs, 
Exxon, our project's sponsor, retains and affirms its 
enviable position as the corporation that has most 
consistently and most generously aided contempo- 
rary art and living artists in the United States and 

The Guggenheim Foundation's gratitude is here- 
with extended to Diane Waldman and her aides who 
staged the current Exxon International Exhibition 
and to Exxon, through the person of Leonard Flei- 
scher, Senior Advisor to the Corporation's Arts Pro- 
gram, whose beneficial application of their policies 
to our needs is deeply appreciated. 

Thomas M. Messer, Director 

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation 

It would have been impossible to realize Italian Art 
Now without the support and cooperation of many 
individuals here as well as in Italy. Lisa Dennison, 
Assistant Curator at the Guggenheim Museum, has 
worked with me on all aspects of both exhibition 
and catalogue; her collaboration has been indis- 
pensable. I would also like to thank the many staff 
members at the Guggenheim Museum for their dili- 
gent efforts on behalf of this project. In particular, 
I wish to acknowledge Carol Fuerstein, Editor, for 
her intelligent editing of the catalogue and for see- 
ing it through the presses; her assistant Cynthia 
Clark; Elizabeth Easton, Susan Taylor and Shara 
Wasserman. Gratitude is also due to the following 
individuals associated with galleries in the United 
States and abroad for their important assistance: 
Salvatore Ala and Caroline Martin, Lucio Amelio, 
Heiner Bastian, Bruno Bischofberger, Jim Corcoran, 
Mario Diacono, Anthony D'Offay and Anne Seymour, 
Mario Pieroni and Dora Stiefelmeier, lleana Sonna- 
bend and Antonio Homen, Gian Enzo Sperone, An- 
gela Westwater, Konrad Fischer and Pier Luigi Pero; 
also Silvana Camoni of the Galleria Salvatore Ala 
and Julia M. Ernst of Sperone Westwater Fischer. 
Among the critics and friends who have been extra- 
ordinarily helpful are Giovanna Delia Chiesa, Fran- 
cesca Alinovi, Bruno Cora and Attanasio di Felice. 
My appreciation must be expressed to the generous 
lenders who have in a very tangible sense made the 
exhibition possible. Finally, my sincere thanks are 
extended to the artists themselves for their commit- 
ment and enthusiasm; working with them has been 
both enjoyable and rewarding. 



by Diane Waldman 

Italian art today is as complex and compelling as 
Italy itself. If one were to visit, as this writer did, 
artists living and working in centers as diverse as 
Ancona, Turin, Milan, Pescara, Rome, Florence, Bo- 
logna and Naples, one would immediately become 
aware of the unique character of the regioni of Italy, 
of rich variation in language, custom, tradition, taste. 
But, above all, one would become aware of a contin- 
uum of old and new wherein a very ancient heritage 
permeates the fabric of the most audacious state- 
ment of the moment. The formal order and elegance 
of the Florentine Renaissance are still mirrored in 
the most contemporary art of the city, while the 
pagan legacy of Greece and the Roman Empire 
reverberates in the work of artists living in towns 
along the Adriatic coast, in southern Italy and in 
Rome. It is the identification with place, the view of 
history as a living entity, the respect for culture and 
craft, as well as a keen awareness of the interna- 
tional community of contemporary art by the Italian 
artists that lend their work an extraordinary diver- 
sity and dynamism. 

While the legacy of the distant past enriches con- 
temporary Italian art, it is by no means the only 
source of inspiration. Italians are fond of remarking 
to Americans, "our nation is younger than yours," 
to emphasize the importance and relevance of their 
recent history. Indeed, the history of early twentieth- 
century art, especially that of Metaphysical painting, 
and of more recent movements such as Arte Povera 
of the sixties, for the young Italians stands in a com- 
plex and often paradoxical relationship to the his- 
tory of the remote past that has not become a mere 
document but is as real as the most recent event. 

Crucial to an analysis of Italian art today is an 
understanding of the important but short-lived Meta- 
physical school, which flourished at the end of the 
second decade of the century. The Metaphysical 
painters, who can only very loosely be considered 
a school, include Giorgio de Chirico (still the best- 
known exemplar of the style outside of Italy), Carlo 
Carra (who had been a leading Futurist), de Chiri- 
co's younger brother Alberto Savinio, Filippo de 
Pisis, Mario Sironi. These artists attempted to re- 
form the classical vision of the Renaissance, espe- 

cially in terms of perspective, the use of volumetric 
figures and objects and the depiction of a particu- 
lar, finite world. Through irrational juxtapositions of 
these forms and distortions of space, they created a 
strange and disquieting atmosphere. By 1920 many 
of the painters associated with the Scuola Meta- 
fisica had reverted to a more traditional style in- 
spired by classical Italian art. 

Then, as now, as Carra himself explained, the 
most avant-garde commitment on the part of Ital- 
ians was tempered by a fascination for early Re- 
naissance art, in particular for Giotto and Uccello. 
Allegorical, mythological and oriental subjects, 
themes of androgeny and hermaphroditism, and de- 
liberate clumsiness in drawing, paint handling and 
in the representation of perspectival space became 
preoccupations of artists in the 1920s and 1930s; 
significantly, they are central concerns of many 
young contemporary Italian artists. 

De Chirico, de Pisis, Carra, Savinio, Osvaldo 
Licini, Ottone Rosai, Scipione (Gino Bonichi), Pio 
Semeghini, Italo Cremona, Fausto Pirandello and 
others, because they shared these preoccupations 
in the decades following World War I, may be seen 
as important forerunners of the recent group of 
Italian artists identified by the critic Achille Bonito 
Oliva as the trans-avantgarde. De Pisis and de 
Chirico can be singled out for other equally intrigu- 
ing contributions to present-day Italian art. De Pisis 
is particularly fascinating in his use of self as the 
starting point of his art, for a flamboyance and the- 
atricality that is mirrored in the Performance Art and 
some of the most compelling painting and sculpture 
of Italy in the 1960s and 1970s. De Chirico, on the 
other hand, fuses romanticism with a sense of the 
irrational and the fantastic and elevates common- 
place objects and environments to a metaphorical 
realm to create a larger poetic reality. His roman- 
ticism is of late nineteenth-century origin; his dis- 
location of objects, abrupt changes in scale, the 
aura of enigma and the dream are influenced by 
northern artists such as Boecklin and Klinger and 
the writings of Nietzsche. These characteristics we 
have come to associate not only with Pitlura Meta- 
lisica but with contemporary Italian art as well. 

In contrast, the adherents of Arte Povera, the 
dominant movement of the 1960s, were, like their 
American counterparts, drawn to a reductive imag- 
ery, a minimal and conceptual framework, on the 
one hand, and to an art that was extremely physical 
in nature on the other. During the mid-1960s the 
Greek-born, Rome-based artist Jannis Kounellis 
presented a series of tableaux-vivants that incor- 
porated live birds and animals, plants and human 
beings. These were comparable to the Happenings 
that occurred in New York during the 1960s, while 
an emphasis on modular form and on process and 
concept, rather than on end product, were common 
to both Italian and American art. Despite similari- 
ties, however, painting, sculpture and Performance 
Art differ significantly in this period. The recovery 
of myth, the symbolic meaning in performance and 
dance of fire and ritual, the organic harmony of art 
and of nature at its most elemental, the renewed 
preoccupation with alchemy are fundamental to 
even the sparest forms of expression in recent 
Italian art. These concerns, deep-rooted in the Ital- 
ian heritage and imagination, are neither integral to 
our culture nor germane to our history and, thus, 
are not central to our art. 

The return to expressionist imagistic painting in 
the late 1970s, in Italy as in the United States, was 
an inevitable reaction to the conceptual, reductive, 
largely non-imagistic art of the 1960s, just as Pop 
Art developed inevitably out of Abstract Expres- 
sionism. Just as Pop Art owes a debt to Abstract 
Expressionism, Italian expressionist imagist paint- 
ing cannot be entirely separated from the move- 
ments that preceded it: many of these young Italian 
image-painters were themselves practitioners of a 
minimalist art during the 1970s. Furthermore, the 
Italians do not confine their admiration at any one 
time to any one kind of expression, but are inspired 
by artists as diverse as Duchamp and Beuys, Warhol 
and Gilbert and George, Rauschenberg and Johns, 
and the Rome-based Twombly, as well as the best 
American painting and sculpture of the 1950s and 

The seven artists in this exhibition — Sandro Chia, 
Enzo Cucchi, Nino Longobardi, Luigi Ontani, Vettor 

Pisani, Giuseppe Penone, Gilberto Zorio — are not 
meant to be seen as members of a single, identifi- 
able movement or school but to express the ongoing 
vitality of Italian art today. Chia's uncommonly vora- 
cious appetite is stimulated by Cocteau, Malevich, 
Leger, Rosai, de Kooning, the art of Pompeii and 
the art of the streets. His is an art that celebrates 
the universe of the imagination and the drama of 
pure painting. Cucchi is more self-enclosed, draw- 
ing inspiration from a more concentrated vision, 
rooted in saints, medieval mysteries and strong, 
primitive color. Zorio and Penone, both based in 
Turin, share a common use of reductive forms and 
certain materials, such as terra-cotta. But Zorio's 
crystalline sculpture synthesizes the lean and the 
sensual, the rational and the alchemical, while 
Penone's work recalls Brancusi in its expression of 
the mystery of nature and a sense of its organic 
structure. Pisani and Ontani both evolve out of per- 
formance. Like de Pisis, Ontani travels through his 
artistic adventures in various disguises. He is like 
both St. Exupery and his voyager, le petit prince. He 
re-creates the vision of a child, calling upon mythol- 
ogy, nursery rhymes or cartoon characters, endow- 
ing his work with the flavor of innocence tinged with 
eroticism, with humor and fantasy. On the other 
hand, Pisani, like de Chirico, is fascinated by north- 
ern artists such as Boecklin, Khnopff and Beuys. 
Duchamp is also a major source for his complex, 
hermetic and visually compelling art. Longobardi 
has integrated props such as tiger skins and chairs 
into otherwise spare canvases and has attached var- 
ious painted objects to the encrusted surfaces of 
other paintings. More recently, a devastating earth- 
quake in Naples has inspired a series of works de- 
picting nature in chaos, populated by disquieting, 
spectral figures. 

Thus, Chia, Cucchi, Longobardi, Pisani, Penone, 
Ontani and Zorio, uniquely different as artists, are 
nourished by the complex and various traditions 
that fuse in the crucible of their homeland and cre- 
ate new expressions that constitute aspects of Ital- 
ian art today. 

Sandro Chia 


Statement by the artist 

Nowadays there is said to be a new interest in paint- 
ing. Therefore, painting faces the task of becoming 
even more interesting. 

In order for such an attempt to succeed, it is nec- 
essary, above all, to recall the most interesting as- 
pect of painting. This may sound pretentious in a 
time of so much analytical and sociological criticism 
in art. On the contrary, it is possible that dealing 
with such things has obscured the most interesting 
aspect of painting. Because what is the most inter- 
esting in painting is the chasm which divides paint- 
ing from other things. Simultaneously, the chasm is 
the means by which painting relates to other things. 
Considering that the chasm (between painting and 
other things) is the most interesting aspect of paint- 
ing means that between painting and other things 
there is no bridge but a jump. How ridiculous and 
damaging are those provisional bridges thrown up 
in order to facilitate commerce between painting 
and other things. The chasm which separates and 
joins painting and other things only becomes gen- 
erative and rich in potential as it becomes more 
visible and insuperable: Masaccio. Piero delta Fran- 
cesca, Leonardo, Lotto, Raffaelo, Tiziano, El Greco, 
Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Turner, Cezanne, Monet, 
Renoir, Munch, Matisse, Mondrian, Malevich, 
Picasso, Carra, de Chirico, de Kooning, Bacon 
Klein, Pollock, Beuys, Lichtenstein, Warhol, Twom- 
bly, Johns. 

Born in Florence, 1946 

Accademia di Belle Arti, Florence, degree 1969 

Travels throughout Europe and India, 1970 

Settles in Rome, 1970 

Establishes studio in New York, 1 980 

Lives and works in New York and Ronciglione 

Sandro Chia's artistic vision is encyclopedic in 
scope. He draws unabashedly on diverse sources 
— cultural, historical and art historical — and assimi- 
lates them within the context of his personal ex- 
perience to create an art of great originality and 
freshness. He states, "what I'm trying to put into my 

work is what I am. Culturally, anthropologically. . . . 
People say I'm in a European tradition, but I'm mak- 
ing graffiti from what I know. This tradition is some- 
thing I ate with my food as a child, because I was 
born in a certain place."' 

Chia's birthplace and home for twenty-four years 
was Florence, a city whose rich artistic traditions 
date back to the thirteenth century, when it was al- 
ready a center for artists and artistic training. In 
Florence art is a part of life, integrated into everyday 
experience. This exposure was particularly impor- 
tant in Chia's development: he relates, for example, 
how as a youth he played soccer in Santo Spirito 
and afterwards went into the Church of Sta. Maria 
del Carmine to look at Masaccio's frescos. In 1970, 
curious about the world outside of Florence, Chia 
embarked on a year-long journey throughout Europe 
and India. Upon his return, he moved to the more 
metropolitan city of Rome, where he set up a studio. 
His first one-man show at Galleria La Salita in 1971 
affirmed his origins in Conceptual Art, the dominant 
movement in Italy at the time. Entitled L'ombra e il 
suo doppio (The Shadow and lis Double), the exhi- 
bition presented an ensemble of objects (a plastic 
rose, a stuffed bird, a toy and two vials) positioned 
on the ground around a light source in the center of 
the room. The shadows of these objects, which con- 
stituted their "doubles," were projected onto four 
white panels hung on the walls. Although Chia's 
work changed radically over the course of the next 
ten years, the double image would recur throughout 
his oeuvre (for example, Genoa, 1981, cat. no. 4). 

While Conceptualism and Minimalism expanded 
his perception, Chia felt constrained by their limi- 
tations in terms of solving painterly problems. As 
he gradually disengaged himself from the ordered 
strategies and impersonality of these modes, he 
moved toward an art based on intuition and synthe- 
sis, a more open painting that celebrates the physi- 
cal properties of the medium with an explosive 
exuberance of color and brushwork. The drama of 
the surface quality of these canvases is enhanced 
by highly personal imagery rich in metaphor, fan- 
tasy, allegory, emotion and nostalgia. Perhaps 
paradoxically, though the canvases are extremely 

extroverted, they are born of purely internal motives. 
The artist's presence is felt throughout: his inven- 
tiveness, instinct and imagination give new life to 
images with a past. 

The notion of an art that has returned to its inter- 
nal motives has been espoused by the critic Achille 
Bonito Oliva, who calls for the artist to take a "no- 
madic" position in order to roam freely through all 
the realms of art and the history of art: "Today, mak- 
ing art means having everything on the table in a 
revolving and synchronous simultaneity which suc- 
ceeds in blending inside the crucible of the work 
both private and mythic images, personal signs tied 
to the individual's story and public signs tied to cul- 
ture and art history." 2 Though Chia eschews identi- 
fication with movements or groups of artists, his 
work affirms this credo. 

Chia engages in a pictorial discourse replete with 
wide-ranging cultural associations. In works such 
as Heraclitus and His Other Half, Dionysus' Kitchen 
and To You Treacherous Wagon! (cat. nos. 7, 5), 
where an orange donkey shatters the peacefulness 
of a rural setting by kicking his carriage, which is 
emblazoned with a large white cross, he appropri- 
ates subjects from the realm of religion, philosophy 
and mythology as well as Mediterranean folktales 
and everyday life. By incorporating several dispar- 
ate references into a single painting, Chia reinvents 
historical themes and invests them with new and 
timely meaning. Though his sources seem obvious 
for the most part, in dislocating them from their con- 
texts, he transcends their original meaning. Chia's 
simultaneous veneration and denial of his sources 
and his sardonic wit give the work its vitality: his 
paintings are at once ingratiating and disobedient, 
angelic and impolite. 

In removing his subjects from their accustomed 
contexts, Chia does not engage in the transforma- 
tions typical of Surrealism, a movement he disavows 
for its intellectual approach, its literalism and its 
lack of painterliness. He is, rather, much closer in 
spirit to the Italian Metaphysical painters, de Chirico 
and Carra. Both the Metaphysical painters and the 
Surrealists juxtaposed unrelated, commonplace ob- 
jects in often bizarre environments so that these 

objects took on new characters as magical and 
autonomous entities, reflecting the inner world of 
the artist's imagination. Surrealism emphasized the 
fantastic, the accidental and irrational and, drawing 
on Freudian precepts and dream symbolism, de- 
picted the world of the subconscious as a new real- 
ity, a "super reality." The Metaphysical painters, 
who preceded the Surrealists, originally focused 
upon the magical effects of strange juxtapositions; 
however, they later were committed, above all, to a 
return to Italian tradition and craftsmanship, and 
sought to restore to prominence the values of Italian 
Quattrocento and Cinquecento painting. Drawn to 
the classicism and purity, the architectonic struc- 
ture and perspectival innovations, the dramatic 
chiaroscuro of these paintings, in particular they 
admired Piero, Masaccio and Giotto. 

An understanding of the Metaphysical painters' 
identification with Italian history and their love of 
commonplace objects is fundamental to an under- 
standing of Chia's work. Both Carra and de Chirico 
wrote about the importance of the commonplace in 
art: Carra wrote in 1919 in Pittura Metafisica "It is 
the ordinary things that reveal the simplicity which 
points to a higher and more hidden state of being 
and which is the very secret splendor of art." In his 
Metaphysical landscapes de Chirico depicted a si- 
lent, motionless dream-world with deep perspec- 
tives and strong shadows, no-man's lands in which 
man-made objects shed their accustomed identities 
for often indecipherable new ones. Chia especially 
admires de Chirico and is inspired by the aura of 
mystery in his work, noting that for de Chirico there 
is mystery in a still life, in simple things. And like 
de Chirico, Chia imbues the most commonplace sit- 
uations and the most ordinary of objects with great 
mystery. Chia's is not an ambiguity that invites us to 
search for solutions, but a deliberately created am- 
biguity that elevates his subject matter to the level 
of metaphor. 

Chia's specifically art-historical quotations oper- 
ate on stylistic as weh as thematic levels. He ingen- 
iously combines both the formal and iconographic 
inventions of older Italian traditions (especially the 
early Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque pe- 



riods) and of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century 
movements (Post-Impressionism and expressionist 
modes including Fauvism, Futurism and Primitiv- 
ism). Though in mood Chia's work is most akin to 
Metaphysical painting, stylistically it has more in 
common with expressionism, in particular in its 
repudiation of finish and refinement. Indeed, Chia 
embraces many techniques and effects typical of 
expressionism, such as deliberate crudity of draw- 
ing and paint handling, surfaces made palpable and 
activated by audacious scribblings of thick paint. He 
reinforces the discordant textures he achieves with 
brilliant, often strident colors that sharply intrude 
upon an otherwise somber palette. Recently Chia 
has begun to use oil sticks; these allow him greater 
freedom to execute very direct coloristic drawing, 
which invests his work with tremendous energy. 

From these highly energized fields the figure 
emerges. The figure is always engaged in activity, 
generally the simplest of rituals, and serves as a 
barometer of the painting's evolution for Chia. He 
says, "I know a painting is finished when the figure 
is all grown up." In the more recent painting, sculp- 
tural modeling recalls Matisse: the figure takes 
shape as three-dimensional form through the use 
of line and color. Curves define volume and flatness 
simultaneously, and establish an independent pat- 
tern of linear rhythms across the surface of the can- 
vas. The human form is the central image for Chia 
as for Matisse, the thread that runs throughout all 
their work. However, the emotional range of Chia's 
figures, and hence canvases, extends from playful- 
ness and joy to tragedy and despair. Thus the com- 
plexity of Chia's vision is at odds with the clear, 
harmonious and ultimately hedonistic world de- 
picted by Matisse. 

One of the artists Chia most admires for his fusion 
of formal concerns and poetic content is Chagall. 
Chagall's deliberate contrasts of earth tones and 
brilliant primaries, the calculated clumsiness of his 
drawing, the figures' defiance of gravity parallel 
Chia's own solutions. And Chagall, like Chia, sub- 
ordinates all individual details to the total expe- 
rience of the work of art. Moreover, the ethereal 
nature of his floating figures creates a metaphysical 

energy which Chia believes should be at the heart 
of painting. As Chia stated in a recent interview, 
"Now a painting is not just an object. It has an aura 
again. There is a light around the work. ... It is the 
same feeling, I think, that Renaissance people got 
from painting. It is a miracle, in a way. . . . Painting is 
made with heavy . . . dirty things. But they become 
light. They become metaphysical in the minds of 
people looking at them." 3 The concept of the aura 
of the painting is central for Chia. He believes that 
paintings should not convey a message, but an at- 
mosphere. The spectator is captured in the intense 
field of the individual work or group of works and 
partakes of this aura. 

Malevich is another master of the early twentieth 
century with whom Chia shares a spiritual kinship. 
In his pictures of peasants, which preceded his 
Suprematist works, Malevich painted the most ordi- 
nary of subjects — peasants laboring at mundane 
activities such as washing, gardening and cutting 
wood. The bucolic primitivism of Malevich's scenes, 
the brilliant spectral colors and tubular volumes, 
the clumsy, oversize figures which dominate their 
surroundings find counterparts in Chia's own can- 
vases. Malevich transcended the earthbound realm 
of these works only in his later, abstract Suprema- 
tist paintings; Chia, on the other hand, explores the 
metaphysical implications of ordinary existence in 
his depictions of commonplace life. In his Suprema- 
tist paintings Malevich used floating or ascending 
shapes to convey the idea of the expansion of man's 
psychic life beyond the world of earthly things. Chia, 
too, interprets the theme of floating to reinforce 
metaphysical content but, as previously stated, more 
literally, in the guise of floating human figures. 

Chia is attuned not only to European painting 
of the early years of this century, but also to artistic 
developments that took place in the United States 
in the fifties and sixties. The presence of Twom- 
bly in Rome since the late fifties was an important 
catalyst for Italian artists of Chia's generation. 
Twombly's ability to work within the framework of 
Conceptualism and Minimalism while maintaining 
a painterliness by means of his crosshatching, 
scratchy and scribbled brushstrokes is reflected in 

Chia's own painting. Pop artists also attract Chia, 
especially Warhol tor his high-key, day-glo color, 
which, although unrealistic, was successfully inte- 
grated into naturalistic imagery, and for the ironic 
power of his banal subject matter. Moreover, Lich- 
tenstein provides precedents for Chia's own use of 
commonplace subject matter and his learned quo- 
tations from art history — quotations which remain 
identifiable yet are interpreted through his own sen- 
sibility. Lichtenstein's ability to transcend common- 
place subject matter while preserving the essence of 
its original nature as well as his practice of drawing 
upon a broad range of art history finds parallels in 
Chia's own art. While the Pop artists approached the 
history of art as a series of movements to be treated 
sequentially. Chia, on the other hand, uses his paint- 
ing as a crucible in which past art and personal vis- 
ion meet and fuse in continuous and free interplay 
without reference to chronological distinctions. 

Chia ultimately achieves an extraordinary synthe- 
sis of disparate material and thereby creates works 
which are at once richly eclectic and uniquely per- 
sonal. He has produced a prolific body of work 
resonant with a poetry and spirit that transcends the 
tangible. Yet, in the viewing experience, the phe- 
nomenal qualities of his paintings are inescapable. 


See individual artist's bibliographies for complete 

1. Ratcliff, Interview, 1981, p. 85 

2. Bonito Oliva, The Italian Trans-avantgarde, 1980, 
p. 18 

3. Ratcliff, Interview, p. 85 

Selected Group Exhibitions 

Museum of the Philadelphia Civic Center, Italy Two: 
Art Around '70, November-December 1973. Cata- 
logue with texts by Alberto Boatto, Furio Colombo 
and Filiberto Menna 

Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, tOeme 
Biennale de Paris: Manifestation Internationale des 
jeunes artistes, September 1977 

Galleria Sperone, Rome, Sandro Chia/Giulio 
Paolini/ Salvo, 1977 

Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne, Arte Cilra, June-July 
1979. Catalogue with texts by Germano Celant and 
W. Max Faust 

Stuttgart, Europa 79, October 1979 

Castello Colonna, Genazzano, Le Stanze, November 
1979. Catalogue with text by Achille Bonito Oliva 

Palazzo di Citta, Acireale, Opere latte ad arte, No- 
vember 1979. Catalogue with text by Achille Bonito 

Emilio Mazzoli, Modena, Tre o quattro artisti secchi, 

Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, Die enthauptete Hand — 
100 Zeichnungen aus Italien, January 1980. Trav- 
eled to Stadtische Galerie, Wolfsburg; Groninger 
Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands. Catalogue 
with texts by Achille Bonito Oliva, W. Max Faust and 
Margarethe Jochimsen 

Francesco Masnata, Genoa, Sandro Chia, Fran- 
cesco Clemente. Enzo Cucchi, Nicola De Maria, 
Mimmo Paladino, March 1980 

Galleria Sperone, Turin, Chia, Cucchi. Merz, Calzo- 
lari, March 1980 

Kunstverein, Mannheim, Egonavigatio, March 1980. 
Catalogue with texts by Jean-Christophe Ammann, 
Achille Bonito Oliva, Germano Celant, W. Max Faust 
and Margarethe Jochimsen 

Kunsthalle Basel, Sandro Chia, Francesco Cle- 
mente, Enzo Cucchi, Nicola De Maria, Luigi Ontani, 
Mimmo Paladino, Ernesto Tatatiore, May-June 1980. 
Traveled to Museum Folkwang, Essen; Stedelijk Mu- 
seum, Amsterdam. General catalogue with texts by 
Jean-Christophe Ammann, Achille Bonito Oliva and 
Germano Celant; supplementary catalogue on Chia 
with text and drawings by the artist 

Venice, La Biennale di Venezia: Aperto '80, mostra 
internazionale di giovani artisti, June 1980. Cata- 
logue with texts by Achille Bonito Oliva and Harald 

Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Cologne, Neuerwerbungen, 
October 1980 

Sperone Westwater Fischer, New York, Sandro 
Chia. Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi, October 

Musee d'Art et d'lndustrie, Saint-Etienne, Apres le 
classicisme, November 1980. Catalogue with texts 
by Jacques Beauffet, Anne Dary-Bossut and 
O. Semin 

Palazzo di Citta, Acireale, Genius Loci, November- 
December 1980. Catalogue with text by Achille 
Bonito Oliva 



Daniel Templon, Paris, Chia, Clemente, Cucchi, De 
Maria, Paladino, December 1980-January 1981 

Loggetta Lombardesca, Ravenna, Italiana: nuova 
immagine, 1980 

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Recent 
Acquisitions: Drawings, March-June 1981 

Museen der Stadt, Cologne, Westkunst-Heute, May- 
August 1981. Catalogue with text by Kasper Koenig 

Anthony d'Offay, London, New Work, July-August 

The Royal Academy, London, A New Spirit in Paint- 
ing, August 1981. Catalogue with texts by Christos 
Joachimides, Norman Rosenthal and Nicholas 

Sperone Westwater Fischer, New York, Sandro Chia, 
Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi, Carlo Mariani, 
Malcolm Morley, David Salle, Julian Schnabel (draw- 
ings), September 1981 

Bernard Jacobson Ltd., Los Angeles, New Work 
by Chia, Cucchi, Disler, Penck (prints), October- 
November 1981 

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, CEPA Gallery and HALL- 
WALLS, Buffalo, New York, Figures: Forms and Ex- 
pressions, November 1981. Catalogue with texts by 
Robert Collignon, William Currie, Roger Denson, 
Biff Henrich, Charlotta Kotik and Susan Krane 

Galleria Sperone, Turin, 1981 

Selected One-Man Exhibitions 

Galleria La Salita, Rome, L'ombra e il suo doppio, 
May 1971; 1972; February 1973; June 1974; 1975; 
June 1976 

Galleria Diagramma, Milan, 1972 

Galleria De Domizio, Pescara, Graziosa girevole, 
May 1975 

Galleria L'Attico, Rome, 1975 

Galleria Tucci Russo, Turin, March 1976; 1978 

Emilio Mazzoli, Modena, February 1977 

Galleriaforma, Genoa, 1977 

Galleria Sperone, Rome, 1977; December 1979 

Galleria De Crescenzo, Rome, March 1978 

Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne, November 1978; 1980 

Framart Studio, Naples, 1978 

Galleria dell'Oca, Rome, 1978 

Galleria Mario Diacono, Bologna, January 1979. 
Catalogue with text by Mario Diacono 

Sperone Westwater Fischer, New York, January 
1980; April 1981 

Art and Project, Amsterdam, March 1980 

Anthony d'Offay, London, December 1981-January 

Selected Bibliography 


Bibliographie, Rome, 1972 

Intorno a se, Rome, 1978. Published on occasion of 
one-man exhibition, Galleria De Crescenzo, March 

Mattinata all'opera, Modena, 1979 

With Achille Bonito Oliva and Enzo Cucchi, Ire o 
quattro artisti secchi, Modena, 1979 

Carta d'Olanda, Amsterdam, 1980 

Manuale d'aprile — April Manual, New York, 1981 

Illustrated by the artist 

Roberto Triana Arenas, Bestiario, Rome, 1980 


Newspapers and Periodicals 

Luciana Rogozinski, "Sandro Chia: Mario Diacono/ 
Bologna," Flash Art, no. 88-89, March-April 1979, 
p. 54 

Marlis Gruterich, "Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne," 
Pantheon, October 1979, p. 308 

Achille Bonito Oliva, "La trans-avanguardia itali- 
ana," Flash Art, no. 92-93, October-November 1979, 
pp. 17-20 

Francesco Vincitorio, "Dice Sandro Chia," 
L'Espresso, no. 5, February 3, 1980, p. 91 

Corinna Ferrari, "Stanze del Castello," Domus, no. 
604, March 1980, p. 55 

"Italienische Kunst Heute," Kunstiorum, vol. 39, 
March 1980. Special issue 

Thomas Lawson, "Sandro Chia at Sperone West- 
water Fischer," Art in America, vol. 68, March 1980, 
p. 122 

Achille Bonito Oliva, "The Bewildered Image," 
Flash Art, no. 96-97, March-April 1980, pp. 32-35, 

Laura Cherubini, "The Rooms: Castello Colonna/ 
Genazzano," Flash Art, no. 96-97, March-April 1980, 
pp. 42-43 

Kay Larson, "Bad Boys at Large! The Three Cs Take 
On New York," The Village Voice, vol. 25, Septem- 
ber 17-23, 1980, pp. 35, 37 

William Zimmer, "Italians Iced," The SoHo Weekly 
News, vol. 8, October 8-14, 1980, p. 45 

Ginestra Calzolari, "Sandro Chia," Acrobat Mime 
Parfait, October 1980, pp. 24-27 

R. G. Lambarelli, "Sandro Chia, del paradosso o 
della parodia," Acrobat Mime Parfait, October 1 980, 
pp. 16-23 

Thomas Lawson, "Chia, Clemente and Cucchi," 
Flash Art, no. 100, November 1980, p. 43 
Jean-Christophe Ammann, Paul Groot, Pieter Hey- 
nen and Jan Zumbrink, "Un altre arte?," Museum- 
journaal, serie 25, December 1980, pp. 290-291 

Cynthia Nadelman, "Sandro Chia, Francesco Cle- 
mente, Enzo Cucchi," Art News, vol. 19, December 
1980. p. 193 

Carrie Rickey, "New York: Sandro Chia, Enzo 
Cucchi, and Francesco Clemente: Sperone West- 
water Fischer," Artforum, vol. 19, December 1980, 
pp. 70-72 

Jean-Christophe Ammann, Annuario Skira, Geneva, 
1980, passim 

Henry Martin, "The Italian Scene, Dynamic and 
Highly Charged," Art News, vol. 80, March 1981, 
pp. 70-77 

Achille BonitoOliva, "Sandro Chia," Domus, no. 618, 
June 1981, p. 55 

Thomas Lawson, "Sandro Chia: Sperone Westwater 
Fischer," Artforum, vol. 19, June 1981, p. 91 

Rene Ricard, "Not About Julian Schnabel," Art- 
forum, vol. 19, June 1981, pp. 74-80 

Carter Ratcliff, "a new wave from Italy: Sandro 
Chia," Interview, vol. 11, June-July 1981, pp. 83-85 

Hilton Kramer, "Expressionism Returns to Paint- 
ing," The New York Times, July 12, 1981, Section 2, 
pp. D1, D23 

Nigel Gosling, "Looking at the Eighties," The Ob- 
server, August 16, 1981, p. 24 

Rene Payant, "From Landuageto Landuage," Para- 
chute, Summer 1981, pp. 27-33 

Roberta Smith, "Fresh Paint," Art in America, vol. 
69, Summer 1981, pp. 70-79 

Richard Armstrong, "Cologne: 'Heute,' Westkunst," 
Artforum, vol. 20, September 1981, pp. 83-86 

Jeff Perrone, "Boy Do I Love Art or What," Arts 
Magazine, vol. 56, September 1981, pp. 72-78 

Carter Ratcliff, "The End of the American Era," 
Saturday Review, September 1981, pp. 42-43 

Jean Rouzaud and Emile Laugier, "Vive la peinture- 
peinture!" Actuel, no. 23, September 1981, pp. 80-81 

"Die Neue Malwut," Stern, Hamburg, no. 41, Octo- 
ber 1, 1981, pp. 40-60 

Michael Krugman, "Sandro Chia," Art in America, 
October 1981, pp. 144-145 

"Malerei '81 : Triumph der Wilden," Art Das Kunst- 
magazin, no. 10, October 1981, pp. 32-43 

Pari Stave, "Sandro Chia," Art News, vol. 80, Octo- 
ber 1981, pp. 224-225 

Danny Berger, "Sandro Chia in His Studio: An Inter- 
view," The Print Collector's Newsletter, vol. XII, 
January-February 1982, pp. 168-169 


Achille Bonito Oliva. Europa-America, Milan, 1976 

Achille Bonito Oliva, The Italian Trans-avantgarde, 
Milan, 1980 

Anne Seymour, The Draught of Dr. Jekyll: An Essay 
on the Work of Sandro Chia, London, 1981 


Bones, Collin, Ditch (Ossa, cassa, lossa). 1978 
Oil on canvas, 69 x 82 1 /z " (175 x 210 cm.) 
Private Collection, Turin; Courtesy Sperone 
Westwater Fischer, New York 


In Strange and Gloomy Waters It a White Dot Shines 
If a Child Jumps I Will Approach Her Flight (In acqua 
strana e cupa se brilla un punto bianco se salta una 
pupa al volo suo m'altianco). 1 979 
Oil on canvas, 78% x 140" (200 x 355.5 cm.) 
Collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 


Brutes as Protagonists of a Monkey's Erotic Fantasy 
(Energumeni come protagonist! delta fantasia 
erotica di una scimmia). 1979-80 
Oil on canvas, 67 5 /s x 84" (172 x 213 cm.) 
Private Collection 

Genoa (Genova). 1980 

Oil on canvas, 89 x 156" (226 x 396 cm.) 

Collection Heiner Bastian, Berlin 



To You Treacherous Wagon! (A te perlido carro!). 


Oil on canvas, 51 x 59" (130 x 150 cm.) 

Private Collection; Courtesy Sperone Westwater 
Fischer, New York 

Happy New Year. 1980 

Oil on canvas, 70 3 /4 x39 1 /j" (180 x 100 cm. 

Collection Celine Bastian, Berlin 



Dionysus' Kitchen. 1980 

Oil on canvas, 77 x 110" (196 x 280 cm.) 

Collection Erich Marx, Berlin 


Rabbit for Dinner. 1981 

Oil on canvas, 81 x133 1 /2" (205.5 x 339 cm.; 

Collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 




The Pharmacist's Son (II liglio del tarmacista). 1981 
Oil on canvas, 76% x 102V4" (195 x260 cm.) 
Courtesy Gian Enzo Sperone, Rome 


Neophyte. 1981 

Oil on canvas, 47 x39 1 A" (119 x 100 cm.) 
Private Collection; Courtesy Sperone Westwater 
Fischer, New York 




Fingers Crossed (Dita intrecciale). 1981 
Tempera on paper, 36'/2 x 27" (93 x 69 cm.) 
Private Collection, Washington, D.C. 


Four Eyes, Three Hands. 1981 

Charcoal and pastel on gouache-painted paper, 

73% x59 5 /s" (187.4x151.3 cm.) 

Collection Barbara and Donald Jonas 




Hand Game. 1981 

Pencil, charcoal and oil on paper, 77 x 59 1 /) ' 

(195.5 x 150 cm.) 

Collection Barbara and Donald Jonas 


The Scandalous Face (II volto scandaloso). 1981 
Oil on canvas, 63x51" (160 x 130 cm.) 
Courtesy Gian Enzo Sperone. Rome 




Speed Boy. 1981 

Oil on canvas, 80V4 x81Vs" (204 x206 cm.) 

Collection Janet and Michael Green, London 


Painting, Sculpture and Dust. 1981 
Oil on canvas, 61 x 61" (155 x 155 cm.) 
Private Collection, New York 




Water Bearer. 1981 

Oil and oil pastel on canvas, 81 1 A x 67" (206 x 

170 cm.) 

Courtesy Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London 33 

Enzo Cucchi 


Statement by the artist 
Art loves the world 

Born in Morro d'Alba. Marches, 1950 
Lives and works in Ancona 

Enzo Cucchi's dynamic and monumental canvases 
are characterized by an instinctive, painterly direct- 
ness. Their forcefulness of expression depends 
upon both the visionary poetics of Cucchi's narra- 
tives of confrontation and survival, and the visceral 
quality of his vigorously handled paint, color and 
drawing. The combination of the poetic with the 
extremely physical results in paintings that are 
tough and provocative, spirited and robust. 

Cucchi's art is intimately connected to the sur- 
roundings amid which he grew up. For the past 
seven years, he has lived and worked in the port 
city of Ancona, on the Adriatic Sea. Life in Ancona 
revolves primarily around the harbor; industry is 
closely bound to the marine world. It is, therefore, 
not surprising that the sea figures strongly in 
Cucchi's work. Moreover, the variations in terrain 
of this area, which is known as the Marches — the 
beautiful shoreline, steep ravines and dramatic rock 
formations — that distinguish the area find their 
counterparts in the undulating hills and sharp per- 
spectival and scale changes in Cucchi's paintings. 
Ancona is a city of Greek origin and many monu- 
ments remain intact from the periods of Doric Greek 
and Roman colonization. Although this history has 
bestowed upon Cucchi a sense of artistic tradition, 
his imagery depends first and foremost on his per- 
sonal past. He states, "You discover images just 
once in your lifetime . . . among faded, lifeless and 

untamed forms A painter goes on being a painter 

for the idea of things, of mountains, of women. Men 
are paii iers, cyclists, mountaineers, woodsmen, 
sailors, hunters, warriors."' 

As Cucchi sees himself as part of his surround- 
ings, so he depicts man and his environment as 
inextricably intertwined. His narrative style speaks 
to the themes of man's destiny and the difficulty of 
survival in an often violent world. His landscapes 

are inhabited by strange, primordial figures, shown 
nude and rendered schematically, that appear to 
play the roles of victor or victim, hunter or hunted. 
Ultimately, however, the meanings of these dramas 
are unclear, the iconography is impenetrable and 
open to many interpretations. The deliberate am- 
biguity of meaning is in dramatic contrast, however, 
to the clarity, simplicity and force of the formal ve- 
hicles used to convey that meaning: scale, color 
and paint surface are exploited to their fullest po- 
tential to heighten the urgency and impact of ex- 
pression in these canvases. 

Cucchi's surfaces seem to exhale brilliant, vivid 
color. He concentrates on primary and secondary 
colors, using them in their purest, harshest and 
most highly saturated form; subtle mixtures and 
pastels have no place in his palette. Frequently he 
abuts areas of color with their complimentaries, so 
that the intensity of each color is amplified by the 
other. Cucchi is also adept at using black, either in 
combination with primary colors or alone in the 
stark charcoal drawings or in the very large-scale 
paintings comprised of white drawing on black 
grounds, such as Saint's Foot, 1981. Cucchi exe- 
cutes all the colors in a single painting in the same 
value, so that every area of the canvas pulsates 
with equivalent intensity. Sometimes he lays on 
color with broad sweeps of the brush; sometimes 
he renders mountains or seas as single blocks of 
strident, undiluted color — here, the skin may occa- 
sionally open up to reveal gashes of equally strong 
color underneath. Always the sense of overpower- 
ing color is enhanced by the heroic scale of the 

The materiality of paint is crucial in Cucchi's work 
— each mark on the canvas is significant in itself, 
as an individual piece of matter and also as part of 
the expressive whole. The artist is concerned with 
the density of each hue, the particular physical 
characteristics of each area of pigment. Free and 
open paint handling and forceful brushstrokes con- 
tribute a sense of brutality which reinforces the em- 
phatic physical presence of surfaces. 

Cucchi renders figures simply and economically 
with bold, summarizing contour lines. Dense color 

and heavy impasto give these figures their corpo- 
reality. This weight Cucchi underscores by convey- 
ing a sense of the ever-present and powerful pull 
of gravity — figures plunge to earth from the sky 
(A Fish on the Back of the Adriatic Sea or Ferocious 
Tongues [cat. nos. 20, 22]) or menacingly stomp the 
earth with their exaggeratedly large feet {Battle of 
the Regions [cat. no. 27]). These figures — at first 
depicted as tiny, dwarfed by their surroundings — 
are oversized in relation to the landscapes upon 
which they are imposed with minimal, if any, per- 
spectival or proportional integration. Dramatic fore- 
shortenings pull the viewer into the space of the 
compositions. Shifts of scale are abrupt and arbi- 
trary and create an environment that corresponds 
to the world of the artist's imagination, not the real 
world. Schematic presentation of figures, clumsy 
drawing, awkward proportions, simplified composi- 
tional structure and straightforward color combine 
to produce a naive, even primitive effect. 

In both its reference to primordial nature and 
the physicality of its surfaces, Cucchi's painting is 
reminiscent of the work of Clyfford Still. Although 
it is unlikely that Cucchi, who has remained for the 
most part in the province of his birth, has seen Still's 
work firsthand, an exceptional similarity of feeling 
and purpose unite the two painters. Still deliberately 
isolated himself from the center and pressures of 
the art world, freeing himself to execute works that 
were majestic in scale, spirit and emotional range. 
Cucchi, too, has detached himself from the artistic 
mainstream, drawing inspiration from his immediate 
surroundings. Cucchi's raw, almost savage paint 
and color application recalls Still's own technique; 
his high-key colors, particularly the use of red, yel- 
low, brown and white, find counterparts in Still's 
palette. In both the American's and the Italian's 
canvases, these colors suggest the primary ele- 
ments. Still often cuts into the surface of his dense 
opaque color to open up chasms; Cucchi, as well, 
slashes the skin of his heavy paint. The intensity of 
Still's blacks, his affirmative brushstrokes, his trow- 
eled paint create a physicality seen also in the best 
of Cucchi's work. And, finally, the jagged configu- 
rations of Still's forms find contemporary parallels 

in Cucchi's angular landscapes and the nervous, ir- 
regular silhouettes of his bestial and human figures. 

The artist has said that the only paintings he saw 
as a child were of saints in churches. These saints 
were Cucchi's earliest heroes, and his continuing 
fascination with them is revealed in numerous ref- 
erences to martyrdom (hands and feet with stig- 
mata) and frequent use of crosses and halos 
(crowning both animate beings and inanimate ob- 
jects). Most of the monuments surrounding Cucchi 
in Ancona evolved and were rebuilt over the centu- 
ries from Roman antiquity through medieval times; 
some date as late as the eighteenth century. Their 
proportions are eccentric, their volumes heavy, 
without the classic refinement and grace of Renais- 
sance style. The primitivism of these massive build- 
ings and the bas-reliefs and paintings that adorn 
them is reflected in the deliberate crudity and clum- 
siness of Cucchi's figures and landscapes. In a re- 
cent series called ferocious paintings (cat. nos. 
22, 24), Cucchi depicts scenes with an obsessively 
repetitious palette of red, yellow, white and black 
in which images of severed heads, skulls, predatory 
beasts and ominous foliage with sawtooth edges 
frenziedly crisscross the canvas. 

Although he is inspired by a wealth of external 
material — the landscapes and seascapes of An- 
cona, naive and expressionist painting, the holy 
images of past art — Cucchi's artistic decisions are 
based on intuition. Drawing upon his internal re- 
sources, he has achieved a dynamic balance be- 
tween form and content and has cultivated as well 
an authentic feeling for paint and color. The myste- 
rious imagery and brutal forms, the uningratiating 
color of Cucchi's paintings are fed by primeval 
sources of inspiration to constitute an art of harsh 
and primitive power. 


1. Cucchi, Diciannove disegni, 1980 

Selected Group Exhibitions 

Galleria Municipale, Modena, Associazione, dis- 
sociazione, dissenzione dell'arte: I'estetico e il 
selvaggio. May 1979 



Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Le alternative del 
nuovo, June 1979 

Stuttgart, Europa 79, October 1979 

Castello Colonna, Genazzano, Le Stanze, November 
1979. Catalogue with text by Achille Bonito Oliva 

Palazzo di Citta, Acireale, Opere fatte ad arte, 
November 1979. Catalogue with text by Achille 
Bonito Oliva 

Emilio Mazzoli, Modena, Tre o quattro artisti secchi, 

Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris, Parigi: o cara, 1979 

Galleria Artra, Milan, Labirinto, 1979 

Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, Die enthauptete Hand — 
100 Zeichnungen aus Italien, January 1980. Traveled 
to Stadtische Galerie, Wolfsburg; Groninger Mu- 
seum, Groningen, The Netherlands. Catalogue with 
texts by Achille Bonito Oliva, W. Max Faust and 
Margarethe Jochimsen 

Francesco Masnata, Genoa, Sandro Chia, Fran- 
cesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi, Nicola De Maria, 
Mimmo Paladino, March 1980 

Galleria Sperone, Turin, Chia, Cucchi, Merz, Calzo- 
lari, March 1980 

Kunsthalle Basel, Sandro Chia, Francesco Cle- 
mente, Enzo Cucchi, Nicola De Maria, Luigi Ontani, 
Mimmo Paladino, Ernesto Tatafiore, May-June 1980. 
Traveled to Museum Folkwang, Essen; Stedelijk 
Museum, Amsterdam. General catalogue with texts 
by Jean-Christophe Ammann, Achille Bonito Oliva 
and Germano Celant; supplementary catalogue on 
Cucchi with text and drawings by the artist 

Venice, La Biennale di Venezia: Aperto '80, mostra 
internazionale di giovani artisti, June 1980. Cata- 
logue with texts by Achille Bonito Oliva and Harald 

Musee Nationale d'Art Moderne, Centre d'Art et de 
Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, XI Biennale de 
Pan's, September 1980 

Sperone Westwater Fischer, New York, Sandro 
Chia, Francesco Clemente, Enzo Cucchi, October 

Palazzo di Citta, Acireale, Genius Loci, November- 
December 1 980. Catalogue with text by Achille 
Bonito Oliva 

Daniel Templon, Paris, Chia, Clemente, Cucchi, De 
Maria, Paladino, December 1980-January 1981 

Loggetta Lombardesca, Ravenna, Italiana: nuova 
immagine, 1980 

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Recent 
Acquisitions: Drawings, March-June 1981 

Museen der Stadt. Cologne, Westkunst — Heute, 
May-August 1981. Catalogue with text by Kasper 

Sperone Westwater Fischer, New York, Sandro 
Chia, Francesco Clemente. Enzo Cucchi. Carlo 
Marian! , Malcolm Morley. David Salle, Julian 
Schnabel (drawings), September 1981 

Bernard Jacobson Ltd., Los Angeles, New Work by 
Chia, Cucchi, Disler, Penck (prints), October- 
November 1981 

Galleria Sperone, Turin, 1981 

Selected One-Man Exhibitions 

Galleria Luigi De Ambrogi, Milan, Montesicuro, 
Cucchi Enzo giu, 1977 

Incontri Internazionali d'Arte. Palazzo Taverna, 
Rome, Ritratto di casa, 1977 

Galleria De Crescenzo. Rome, Mare Mediterraneo. 
1978; Alia lontana, alia francese, January 1979 

Galleria Mario Diacono. Bologna, La cavalla az- 

zurra, February 1 979. Catalogue with text by Mario 


Emilio Mazzoli, Modena, La pianura bussa, 1979; 


Galleria Tucci Russo, Turin, Sul marciapiede, du- 
rante la testa dei cani. 1 979 

Galleria dell'Oca, Rome, Uomini con una donna a/ 
tavolo, April 1980 

Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne. 5 morti sono santi, 
1980; Viaggio delle lune, November-December 
1981, traveled to Art and Project, Amsterdam 

Sperone Westwater Fischer, New York, February- 
March 1981 

Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich, March-April 1981 
Galleria Sperone, Rome, November 1981 

Selected Bibliography 


Disegno Unto, Rome, 1978 

With Achille Bonito Oliva, Canzone, Modena, 1979 

// veleno e stato sollevato e trasportato. Macerata, 

With Achille Bonito Oliva and Sandro Chia, Tre o 
quattro artisti secchi, Modena, 1979 

Diciannove disegni, Modena, 1980 


Newspapers and Periodicals 

Roberto G. Lambarelli. "Enzo Cucchi: Giuliana De 
Crescenzo/Roma and Mario Diacono/Bologna," 
Flash Art, no. 88-89, March-April 1979, p. 51 

Achille Bonito Oliva, "La trans-avanguardia 
italiana," Flash Art, no. 92-93, October-November 
1979, pp. 17-20 

Corinna Ferrari, "Stanze del Castello," Domus, no. 
604, March 1980, p. 55 

"Italienische Kunst Heute," Kunstlorum, vol. 39, 
March 1980. Special issue 

Achille Bonito Oliva, "The Bewildered Image," 
Flash Art. no. 96-97, March-April 1980, pp. 32-35, 

Laura Cherubini, "The Rooms: Castello Colonna/ 
Genazzano," Flash Art. no. 96-97, March-April 1980, 
pp. 42-43 

Milton Gendel, "Ebb and Flood Tide in Venice," Art 
News, vol. 79, September 1980, p. 120 

William Zimmer, "Italians Iced," The SoHo Weekly 
News, vol. 8, October 8-1 4, 1 980, p. 45 

Thomas Lawson, "Chia, Clemente, Cucchi," Flash 
Art, no. 100, November 1980, p. 43 

Jean-Christophe Ammann, Paul Groot, Pieter Hey- 
nen and Jan Zumbrink, "Un altre arte?," Museum- 
iournaal, serie 25, December 1980, pp. 294-295 

Cynthia Nadelman, "SandroChia, Francesco 
Clemente, Enzo Cucchi," Art News, vol. 19, Decem- 
ber 1980, p. 193 

Carrie Rickey, "New York: Sandro Chia, Enzo 
Cucchi and Francesco Clemente: Sperone West- 
water Fischer," Arttorum, vol. 19, December 1980, 
pp. 70-72 

John Russell, "Critics' Choices," The New York 
Times, February 22, 1981, Section 2A, p. 3 

"Wochenprogramm: . . . und zulassen, dass die 
Landschaften schwitzen," Tages-Anzeiger. Zurich, 
March 27, 1981 

Henry Martin, "The Italian Scene, Dynamic and 
Highly Charged," Art News, vol. 80, March 1981, 
pp. 70-77 

Roberto G. Lambarelli, "Enzo Cucchi: Emilio Maz- 
zoli/Modena,"F/as/7 Arf, no. 102, March-April 1981, 
p. 51 

Joan Casademont, "New York: Enzo Cucchi," Art- 
forum, vol. 19, April 1981, p. 65 

Lewis Kachur, "Enzo Cucchi," Arts Magazine, vol. 
55, April 1981, p. 13 

Richard Flood, "New York: Enzo Cucchi," Artlorum, 
vol. 19, May 1981, p. 69 

Deborah Phillips, "Enzo Cucchi," Art News, vol. 80, 
May 1981, p. 196 

Hilton Kramer, "Expressionism Returns to Paint- 
ing," The New York Times, July 12, 1981, Section 2, 
pp. D1, D23 

Jean-Christophe Ammann, "Westkunst: Enzo 
Cucchi," Flash Art, Summer 1981, no. 103, p. 37 

Rene Payant, "From Landuage to Landuage," 
Parachute, Summer 1981, pp. 27-33 

Achille Bonito Oliva, "Enzo Cucchi," Domus, no. 
620, September 1981, p. 75 

Jeff Perrone, "Boy Do I Love Art or What," Arts 
Magazine, vol. 56, September 1981, pp. 72-78 

Jean Rouzaud and Emile Laugier, "Enzo Cucchi 
peint des heros et des saints pour consoler les 
petits hommes craintifs," Actuel, no. 23, September 
1981, pp. 84-85 

"Malerei '81: Triumph der Wilden," Art Das Kunst- 
magazin, no. 10, October 1981, pp. 32-43 


Achille Bonito Oliva, The Italian Trans-avantgarde, 
Milan, 1980 




Lion of the Seas (Leone dei mari). 1979-80 
Oil on canvas, 83 1 /2 x 82" (212 x 208 cm.) 
Collection Paine Webber Inc., New York 


Untitled (Red Landscape). 1980 

Oil on canvas, 79 1 /4 x 86 1 /2 " (201 .5 x 220 cm.) 

Collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 




A Fish on the Back of the Adriatic Sea (Pesce in 
schiena del Mare Adriatico). 1 980 
Oil on canvas, 78% x 107%" (200 x 273 cm.) 
Collection Erich Marx, Berlin 


Swimmer (Nuotatore). 1980 

Oil on canvas, 80% x82%" (205 x210 cm.) 

Courtesy Gian Enzo Sperone, Rome 




Ferocious Tongues (Lingue teroci). 1980 
Oil on canvas, 82 1 /2 x 99'/2 " (210 x 252.5 cm.) 
Collection Stedelijk Museum. Amsterdam 


Heroic Voyage (Viaggio eroico). 1 980 

Oil on canvas with metal, 105 x43 1 /4" (266 x 110 cm.) 

Collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 




Ferocious Painting (Quadro leroce). 1980 
Oil on canvas. 79 x 144'/ 2 " (200.7 x 367 cm.) 
Courtesy Gian Enzo Sperone. Rome 


Sacrificing Painting (Ouadro sacnficante). 1981 
Oil on canvas, 94% x 52 3 A " (240 x 1 34 cm.) 
Courtesy Sperone Westwater Fischer, New York 




Saint, Saint (Santo, santo). 1 981 
Oil on canvas, 70% x43 1 /i" (178 x 110 cm.) 
Private Collection, Zurich; Courtesy Galerie Bruno 
Bischofberger, Zurich 


Battle ot the Regions (Battaglia delle regioni). 1981 
Black chalk on paper, 107% x 1691/4 " (273 x 
430 cm.) 
Collection Robert A. Rowan, Los Angeles 




// Must Not Be Said (Non si deve dire). 1981 
Oil on canvas, 79 x 95" (200 x 241 cm.) 
Collection Gian Enzo Sperone, Rome 


Under the Wind (Sotto ventoj. 1981 
Oil on canvas, 78% x 80% " (200 x 205 cm.) 
Private Collection, Paris; Courtesy Galerie Bruno 
Bischofberger, Zurich 


Nino Longobardi 


Statement by the artist 

In the first phase ot my work the references were 
artists such as Kounellis and Paolini. In that period 
my work was based on a fundamental element, 
which was the space and the architecture of the 
place where the work was contained. In this sense 
my works were not conceived a priori, but they 
developed naturally Irom suggestions of the sur- 
rounding physical space and signs of the cultural 
environment in which I found myself working. For 
example, the exhibitions in Stuttgart, Rotterdam and 
Geneva were realized with this kind of procedure. 

At the moment I'm interested in recovering a kind 
ot painting done in the fifties (but I don't refer to 
anyone in particular). I like to use a painting mate- 
rial that, everything considered, is unpleasant, even 
dirty. In a way I would like to do "colfeeshop paint- 
ings," which means in absolute freedom, without 
controlling the final result too much, because I don't 
believe that a "finished" work exists. Each work has 
its own character that doesn't allow the identifica- 
tion of recognizable elements in the sense of "more 
beautiful" or "less beautiful." What is evident, there- 
lore, to me is the impossibility ol describing my 
works, which I like to invent day by day, contradict- 
ing a common concept ol style: I use painting as a 
procedure ot deprivation. 

On November 23, 1980, an earthquake of catas- 
trophic proportions shook the southern Italian port 
city of Naples. Catacylsmic upheavals of nature are 
not alien occurrences for Neopolitans: in A.D. 63 
an earthquake seriously damaged Pompeii and the 
eruption in A.D. 79 of Mt. Vesuvius completely bur- 
ied the city. Paradoxically, the destructive volcanic 
ash preserved the ruins of Pompeii, and the excava- 
tion of the city in the eighteenth century revealed 
the remains of an ancient civilization and its art. 
Similarly, the recent earthquake brought positive as 
well as tragic consequences, for the people of Na- 
ples rose to the monumental task of reconstruction 
and a new vitality is today manifested in the life of 
the region. Nino Longobardi lost his home and stu- 
dio in the earthquake, yet the disaster stimulated 

him to achieve a new level of creativity and has sig- 
naled a new direction in his painting. 

Achille Bonito Oliva, who regards Longobardi as 
one of the leading young talents of the Italian Trans- 
avantgarde, has written about the role of catastro- 
phe, both in its metaphorical and its literal sense, 
in the emergence of the Trans-avantgarde. He says 
that in the aftermath of catastrophe, art has the 
power to restore culture to a position of balance and 
order. On another level, he likens catastrophe to 
unplanned accidentality, which allows for greater 
artistic freedom. Catastrophe in this sense has the 
power to disrupt the tautological and linear develop- 
ment of art in favor of a non-hieratical, non-temporal 
movement that permits the artist to move freely 
within artistic and cultural history, taking inspira- 
tion from many directions and moments. Moreover, 
Oliva maintains that the displacement of the old 
artistic order by the new generation (the Trans- 
avantgarde) is itself a catastrophe in the most posi- 
tive sense of the concept. 

Longobardi's pre-earthquake production is strik- 
ingly different in character from his more recent 
work, and has its roots in the Conceptual Art that 
pervaded Italy in the early seventies. The early work 
was conceived according to the dictates of the in- 
stallation space and shaped by the ideas this space 
suggested. Longobardi cites Jannis Kounellis as a 
significant source of inspiration for him in this pe- 
riod. Of particular importance for Longobardi was 
Kounellis's extension of the art object into real 
space, an extension which endows this space with 
the compositional fixity characteristic of painting. 

Canvas is a primary component of Longobardi's 
installation pieces. Whereas canvas is a traditional 
material, the artist uses it in an untraditional man- 
ner, and thereby bestows it with a new indepen- 
dence: fluid, unstretched, draped, furled, unfurled, 
it turns corners, even moves away from the wall at 
a ninety-degree angle to enter the space of the 
room. Despite its malleability, this canvas has an 
architectural dimension; despite its seeming empti- 
ness, it retains a compelling visual presence. At the 
Centre d'Art Contemporain in Geneva in 1980, Lon- 
gobardi draped two white canvases like curtains in 

front of two windows and united them with a loosely 
rolled canvas — an umbilical cord of sorts — which 
lay on the floor in front of them. At the Galerie 
't Venster in Rotterdam in 1980, Longobardi elabo- 
rated with an image the ideas he had conveyed with 
his blank canvas. Here a canvas is tacked along the 
wall, angling out at one end to extend into the space 
of the room where it is attached to a pole; a white 
drapery hangs from the ceiling nearby and trails 
along the floor; a dog drawn on the canvas on the 
wall takes into its mouth the corner of the trailing 
drapery. The animate quality of the drawing adds an 
element of humor and surprise that tempers the 
austerity of the bare expanses of white canvas. A 
similar note of humor was injected into another in- 
stallation at the Centre d'Art Contemporain, where 
a small wooden cannon was placed in a gallery. The 
barrel of the weapon breaks through the wall into 
the space of the adjoining room where it sprays 
shells onto a canvas propped against the wall. 
Thus, art is created by the firing of a gun. The 
ostensible violence and aggression of this act per- 
petrated in an aesthetic context and towards an 
aesthetic purpose are contradicted by the fact that 
the shot the cannon has fired are not artillery shells 
but mussel shells. In yet another installation, a real 
tiger skin, complete with head, is partly attached to 
the canvas mounted on a wall, partly draped on the 
floor. The tiger's stripes are continued onto the 
canvas by virtue of pencil marks made by the artist 
to effect the unlikely transition from skin to canvas, 
from nature to art. Thus, the pristine order and se- 
rious conceptual framework of these environments 
are invaded and animated by humor, by trompe 
I'oeil techniques and by the strange beasts that 
inhabit them (see cat. nos. 30-32). 

Longobardi worked towards the reintegration of 
the image and its support, of figure and ground, an 
evolution that took him from the realm of installation 
into the realm of painting. At first, he continued to 
keep the image literally outside the picture space: 
objects, such as small boats, broomsticks, tiger 
skins, are affixed to the densely and turgidly painted 
surface of the canvas. This intrusion of objects 
into the realm of painting is reminiscent of Johns 

and Rauschenberg, two artists Longobardi admires. 
Gradually, he began to integrate the figures with the 
canvas by drawing them instead of applying them. 
The first dog, which took the canvas in its mouth, 
and the objects applied to the surfaces, existed in 
antithetical relationships with the paintings. Now, 
however, Longobardi makes his first real synthesis 
of figure and ground through drawing and color. His 
palette varies from harsh and grating high-keyed 
colors such as acid yellows and shrill greens to 
more subdued, muddied blue-grays and brownish 
reds. Color is never ingratiating; it is charged with 
emotion and speaks powerfully. The strength of this 
color derives in part from the density of pigment, so 
thick it seems almost modeled, and the large dimen- 
sions of the areas it covers. The whirlpools and 
vortexes of thickly applied paint, the agitated brush- 
strokes and strident colors portend the cataclysm 
of the earthquake. 

Longobardi's approach to painting is visceral 
rather than intellectual. In fact, he refers to his can- 
vases as "coffeeshop" or "tavern" paintings, liken- 
ing them to the kind of art found in these mundane 
locales. He admires this genre for its ugliness, for 
its freedom of execution which is unconstrained by 
knowledge of technique, of art history and politics. 
He states, "I am interested in using a pictorial me- 
dium which is displeasing, even dirty." 1 Rapidity of 
execution is of utmost importance because it gives 
his work its uninhibited force and vitality. Longo- 
bardi wishes to keep his intervention in the art- 
making process at a minimum (for this reason, he 
left his earliest canvases almost bare). He speaks 
of the radicality of his work in this respect: "Before 
when one prepared a painting one was intent on 
controlling the dangers and risks which the work 
could develop, the mental elaboration was at the 
basis of everything. My [works] which you see are 
paintings without project." 2 

Longobardi exhibited a group of five highly indi- 
vidual canvases at the Galleria Lucio Amelio in Na- 
ples in 1980. He dedicated the works to Goya, 
Turner, van Gogh, Cezanne and Bacon, although he 
makes only indirect stylistic or thematic references 
to these artists in his painting. For example, he real- 



izes a dialogue with Goya in a bright, mustardy yel- 
low canvas where a shadowy bull-like form heaves 
a picador in the air. In another painting he appro- 
priates material from Bacon. The focal point of the 
canvas, a blood-red side of beef, is incongruously 
juxtaposed with a religious motif, tiny figures repre- 
senting the meeting of St. Francis and the wolf; the 
images float upon an amorphous field of silvery 
grey. In successive work Longobardi adopts from 
Bacon not only the specific imagery of the bloody 
carcass but also his disagreeable colors, his night- 
marish vision, the atmosphere of torment and even 
the triptych format. He explains, "Bacon interests 
me because one can never know if he makes 
paintings for himself or for others, you can never 
understand if they should satisfy or irritate the exe- 
cutioners which they represent. Then there is the 
painting of Goya which made a big impression on 
me. His 'cunning' is fascinating: he knows how to 
satisfy the client without renouncing the unpleas- 
ant and the provocative." 3 

Longobardi has frequently used the image of the 
skull (cat. no. 40). This recurrent motif does not, as 
one might expect, symbolize horror and death. For 
Longobardi is profoundly influenced by Neopolitan 
tradition, and according to a local cult of pagan ori- 
gin, the Cult of the Dead, the skull is revered as an 
image of happiness and optimism. Neopolitans tra- 
ditionally select skulls as good luck symbols from 
the ancient grottoes of the city; they pay homage to 
their skulls by bringing them gifts on Sundays. Thus, 
in an untitled red painting by Longobardi from 1980, 
a rainbow arcs over the central image of the skull, 
reinforcing its special and affirmative meaning. 

In December of 1980 Longobardi exhibited a 
group of works entitled Earthquake at the Galleria 
Lucio Amelio in Naples (cat. no. 36). The paint- 
ings represent a striking departure from the preced- 
ing work and reflect the impact of the earthquake 
on the artist. Figuration and drawing take on much 
greater importance here, and an overall grisaille 
cast replaces the dense color of the earlier can- 
vases. An overriding sense of upheaval and disorder 
in nature pervades the series. This sense of nature 
in disarray is conveyed through the depiction of 

scenes of disaster, through unexpected orientation 
of images and dramatic and abrupt changes in their 
scale from panel to panel of triptychs. Thus, in the 
center of one triptych, Longobardi depicts the bow 
of a boat in its final moment of visibility before dis- 
appearing into the vortex of water which has already 
claimed the stern. Another panel, showing a series 
of eight identically nude and faceless figures stand- 
ing in a row, is oriented vertically, so that the figures 
read as a stack (of corpses perhaps). In still another 
triptych, classical statuary, which appears eerily 
alive, has toppled over. Although not every nuance 
of meaning in these allegories of destruction is de- 
cipherable, the extravagant dramatic power of the 
paintings is inescapable. Longobardi's narrative lan- 
guage is deeply evocative; the drama of the particu- 
lar events he depicts is underscored by imagery 
recalling similar devastations, not only the recent 
earthquake, but Pompeii and other cataclysmic 
events, both man-made and natural, which have 
shattered the order of civilization. 

The apparitional, even spectral, quality of the fig- 
ures in a more recent work, a diptych (cat. no. 37), 
relates it to the incorporeal forms of the Earthquake 
series. In the diptych the upper torso of a swimmer 
is repeated again and again; to the right of this ob- 
sessive series of images is an oversized seahorse. 
On the ground nearby is a hat covered with gesso 
and paint — a motif the artist uses frequently, either 
alone as a self-sufficient sculptural object or as part 
of an installation. Longobardi maintains that his 
images have no symbolic significance in this work: 
the swimmer is a figure borrowed from de Chirico; 
the seahorse was invented merely as a curiosity; 
the hat seems to have been juxtaposed with the 
panels only because its curlicue echoes the shape 
of the seahorse's tail. Indeed, Longobardi is acutely 
sensitive to the way forms complement each other, 
a sensitivity apparent in the rhythmic pattern cre- 
ated by the repetition of the curving arms of the 
swimmers and the loop of the seahorse's tail. 

Drawing and painting are harmoniously integrated 
throughout Longobardi's oeuvre. He begins his can- 
vases with a charcoal underdrawing which remains 
visible through the glaze-like color applied there- 

after. Longobardi's compelling draughtmanship is 
apparent in the Earthquake series and in the diptych 
as well. Drawing permits the artist a dynamic spon- 
taneity which he cherishes (he prefers to complete 
a work at one sitting). 

In a series of recent portraits (for example, cat. 
no. 41) Longobardi further explores the motif of 
otherworldly figures introduced in the Swimmer 
and Earthquake paintings. The haunting faces and 
hollowed-out eyes of the figures in these new works 
recall Bacon's eyeless, distorted faces and Giaco- 
metti's mask-like portraits. The apparitional quality 
of their incorporeal forms is enhanced by milky, 
opalescent white overpainting. These beautiful 
shadows of reality seem in danger of dissolving, but 
turbulent brushwork lends them a trace of palpa- 
bility which returns them to the tangible world. 

Longobardi's work is richly eclectic and highly 
varied. He draws upon sources as diverse as Goya 
and Cezanne, Bacon and Twombly, finds inspiration 
in the art of past and present, in both cultural and 
personal history. His mercurial art may evoke an- 
guish or joy, it may be primitive, violent and disturb- 
ing, or sophisticated, graceful and elegant, richly 
colored or subdued in tone. These characteristics 
do not intersect in a unified vision, for Longobardi 
treats each work, or each series of works, as a self- 
sufficient statement: together they form a kind of 
fever chart of his psyche. 


1. Bonuomo, // Mattino, December 1980. Translated 
by Shara Wasserman 

2. Ibid. 

3. Ibid. 

Selected Group Exhibitions 

Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples, Rassegna delta 
nuova creativita net Mezzogiorno, February-March 
1979; 8 genna/'o 80, January 8, 1980 

Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne, Arte Cifra, June 1979. 
Catalogue with text by W. Max Faust and Paul 

Kunstmarkt Basel, Perspective '79: Art 10 '79, June 

Stuttgart, Europa 79, September-October 1979 

Stadtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, Nino 
Longobardi und Ernesto Tatatiore, March 1980. Cat- 
alogue with text by Helmut Friedel 

Palazzo della Triennale, Milan, Nuova immagine, 
April-July 1980. Catalogue with text by Flavio Caroli 

Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneva, 7 juin 1980, 
June 7, 1980. Catalogue with text by Fulvio Salvadori 

Spoleto, Incontri 1980, June-^July 1980 

Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome, Arte e 
critica 1980, July-September 1980. Catalogue with 
text on Longobardi by Flavio Caroli 

Galerie Schellmann und Kluser, Munich, Nino 
Longobardi und Ernesto Tatatiore, 1980 

Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Linea della ricerca 
artisticain Italia 1960/1980, February-April 1981. 

Sao Paulo, XVI Bienal de Sao Paulo, October 1981 

Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Baroques 
81, October-November 1981. Catalogue with text by 
Catherine Millet 

Galerie Heiner Heppe, art in progress, Dusseldorf, 
Futura tett: Herbert Bardenheuer, Nino Longobardi, 
January-March 1982 

Mura Aureliani, Rome, Avanguardia e transavan- 
guardia, February-March 1 982. Catalogue with text 
by Achille Bonito Oliva 

Selected One-Man Exhibitions 

Studio Gianni Pisani, Naples, December 1977- 
January 1978 

Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne, July 1978 

Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples, February 1979; De- 
cember 1980. Catalogue with text by Lucio Amelio, 
Achille Bonito Oliva and Michele Bonuomo 

Marilena Bonomo, Bari, November 1979 

Galerie 't Venster, Rotterdam, May 1980 

Galleria De Crescenzo, Rome, March-April 1981. 
Catalogue with text by Achille Bonito Oliva 

Galerie Fina Bitterlin, Basel, October 1981 

Internationaler Kunstmarkt, Cologne, Forderpro- 
gramm lur lunge Kunst, October 1 981 

Selected Bibliography 


Newspapers and Periodicals 

Vitaliano Corbi, "Gli ambienti di Longobardi," // 
Mattino, March 8, 1979 



Giulio De Martino, "Arte: il risentimento dell'artista 
dequalificato — nuova creativita: una mostra a 
Napoli," Manifesto, April 24, 1979 

Annemarie Monteil, "Zukunft aus Italien: Perspec- 
tive 79," Basler Zeitung, no. 137, June 15, 1979 
p. 47 

Jurgen Hohmeyer, "Kunst Klotz gemalt," Der 
Spiegel, no. 42, October 15, 1979, pp. 238-239 

Peter M. Bode, "Liebe zu Magie und Sachlichkeit," 
Munchener Abendzeitung, March 10, 1980, p. 11 

Jurgen Morschel, "Quax war da," Suddeutsche 
Zeitung, March 19, 1980 

Renato Barilli, "II pennello va in barchetta," 
L' Espresso, May 11,1 980, p. 1 39 

Arcangelo Izzo, "L'artista impollinato," La Voce 
delta Campania, May 11, 1980, p. 54 

Lucio Amelio, "Splende I'arte italica," // Mattino, 
May 22, 1980 

Fulvio Salvadori, "Nino Longobardi," Art Press, 
no. 37, May 1980, p. 11 

Michele Bonuomo, "Bianco e rosa: Spoleto a 
striscie," // Mattino lllustrato, no. 32, August 9, 1980, 
pp. 17-27 

"Trip around the world with General Idea," File 
Magazine, vol. 4, summer 1980, pp. 41-45 

Flavio Caroli, "L'arte ridiscende nel profondo," 
Corriere Delia Sera lllustrato, October 18, 1980 

Francesco Vincitorio, "Intervista con Flavio Caroli," 
L' Espresso, November 2, 1980 

Christoph Schenker, "Begegnungen 1980: 20 Instal- 
lationen Zeitgenossischer Kunstler in Spoleto," 
Kunstforum International, vol. 39, fall 1980 

Giulio De Martino, "Una mostra di Longobardi a 
Napoli," Manifesto, December 18, 1980 

Michele Bonuomo, "Questo quadro lo dedico a me," 
// Mattino, December 20, 1980 

Maria Di Domenico, "II colore dell'inconscio," 
Paese Sera, January 2, 1981 

Enzo Battarra, "Nino Longobardi esalta superfici," 
Paese Sera, January 9, 1981 

Arcangelo Izzo, "Nino Longobardi," Flash Art, 
no. 102, March-April 1981 

Barbara Tosi, "Nino Longobardi," Segno, no. 21, 

Siegmar Gassert, "Nino Longobardis Anspielun- 
gen," Basler Zeitung, no. 234, October 7, 1981, p. 39 

Severo Sanduy, "Un art monstre," Art Press, 
October 1981, pp. 7-8 

Antonio D'Avossa, "Nino Longobardi," Flash Art, 
no. 105, December 1981 


Lucio Amelio, Achille Bonito Oliva and Michele 
Bonuomo, Tony Cragg, Nino Longobardi, Mimmo 
Paladino, Joseph Beuys, Ernesto Tatafiore, David 
Salle: Lucio Amelio Napoli 1980/81, Naples, 1981 


Untitled (Senza titolo). 1 979 

Tiger skin, charcoal and canvas, 78% x 197x39 1 /4" 
(200 x 500 x 100 cm.) 

Private Collection, Stuttgart 






Centre d'Art Contemporain, Geneva. February 1980 



Wood objects, charcoal and canvas, 78% x 393% " 

(200 cm. x 10 m.) 

Galerie 't Venster, Rotterdam, March 1980 




Untitled (Senza titolo). 1 980 

Oil and mixed media objects on canvas, 90 Vi x 134" 

(230 x340 cm.) 

Private Collection, Naples 


Untitled (Senza titolo). 1 980 

Oil and object on canvas, 102x78%" 

(260 x200 cm.) 

Private Collection, Munich 




Untitled (Senza titolo). 1 980 

Encaustic and object on canvas, 10 x 12V4" 

(40x50 cm.) 

Private Collection, Stuttgart 


Earthquake (Terremoto) (detail). 1980-81 
Oil on canvas, four panels, total 89 x 444 V2 ' 
(350 cm. x 11.29 m.) 
Courtesy Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples 





Untitled (Senza titolo). 1981 

Oil and charcoal on canvas with object, two panels, 

each 78% x 102" (200 x260 cm.) 

Courtesy Giuliana De Crescenzo, Rome 










Untitled (Senza titolo). 1981 

Oil on canvas, 50% x 76 Vi " (200 x 300 cm.) 

Courtesy Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples 


Untitled (Senza titolo). 1 981 

Tempera and charcoal on paper, 61 x 114V4" 


Courtesy Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples 


.«.•• : 

L , * 

Iff// 1* 

a Nf^ 



Untitled (Senza titolo). 1 981 

Tempera on paper, 19 1 /4 x 14V2" (76 x 57 cm.) 

Courtesy Galleria Lucio Amelio. Naples 


Untitled (Senza titolo). 1981 

Tempera on paper, 19 1 /4 x 14 1 /2 " (76 x 57 cm.) 

Private Collection, Naples 


Luigi Ontani 


Born in Vergato 

Moves to Rome, 1 970 

Visits Madras, Jaipur and Benares, India, 1974 

Returns to India, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978 

Lives and works in Rome 

Luigi Ontani reincarnates his favorite heroes from 
mythology, folklore and fairytales, history and art 
history by using his own body as the instrument of 
communication. He assumes the identities of these 
legendary figures by donning their clothes and at- 
tributes. This metamorphosis is effected in the real 
space of his performances and tableaux-vivants, in 
the transcribed space of his photographs and films, 
in his poetic writings and, most recently, in his agile 
and graceful pen and ink drawings and watercolors. 
In all these media Ontani himself is subject and ob- 
ject; this extreme kind of self-portraiture is not, how- 
ever, ostentatious or narcissistic. Narcissus pro- 
jects himself outside his body in order to love what 
is inside himself; Ontani projects himself into the 
persona of another in order to create art, to live art, 
to express his love for art. He says that the mirror of 
art is his mirror, the self-portrait is not only him but 
all of art. 

Ontani has achieved what is for him an ideal inte- 
gration of art and life: he lives his art, and his art is 
his life. In adopting his disguises, he absorbs the 
identity of another, at once losing and rediscovering 
himself. Similarly, his identification with the persona 
of fiction or history disguises neither himself nor the 
other persona — it creates, rather, an ideal symbiosis 
of the two. 

We meet the artist's individual fantasies in his re- 
incarnations. Though most of Ontani's figures are 
based in his Italian cultural heritage, his repertory 
is wide-ranging and immense, drawn from literature 
(Dante, William Tell, Don Quixote, Don Giovanni), 
the Bible (Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, the 
Angel of the Annunciation), mythology (Narcissus, 
Onan, Bacchus, Hermaphrodite), comic strips (Su- 
perman), history (Christopher Columbus). Italian 
folklore (Pulcinella, Pinocchio). He also does a se- 
ries he calls "d'apres," versions of famous works 

in the styles of their originators (Guido Reni's St. 
Sebastian, Joseph Cornell's Medici Prince, Mon- 
drian's Broadway Boogie-Woogie), Ontani executes 
these with accuracy and creativity, referring to writ- 
ten descriptions, original paintings or photographs 
to insure their verisimilitude. 

Ontani's earliest works were small objects con- 
structed of quasi-technological materials, such as 
corrugated cardboard or colored styrofoam, which 
were placed in space in arrangements suggesting 
disorder and precarious equilibrium. This sense of 
disarray and the fanciful nature of the objects con- 
tributed an element of freshness and innocence to 
the installations: they made one think of toys left 
scattered on the floor after a child had finished play- 
ing with them. Ontani was to preserve this sense of 
childlike innocence and naivete throughout his oeu- 
vre, even though his means of expression changed 

Next Ontani began to reinterpret figures from the 
past by costuming his own body, which he had pho- 
tographed; the photograph thus stood as the work 
of art. However, the tableau-vivant, the sustained 
pose, soon became his preferred medium of re- 
creation. Tableaux-vivants are by definition static, 
yet Ontani infused his with a dynamism that flowed 
from his choice of subject, the implied interaction 
between figure and environment, and his unique 
synthesis of the serious and the playful. 

As a painter reaches into art history or mythology 
to nourish his own art, interpreting these borrowings 
in a personal way to create his own work, so Ontani 
brings to bear on his tableaux-vivants the borrowing 
of an identity. And Ontani confronts the same for- 
mal issues that engage the painter: color, light, 
scale and composition. Ontani's finished work, like 
the finished painting, depends not only upon the 
creativity of the artist but also upon the associa- 
tions, memories and personal fantasies the specta- 
tor brings to the viewing experience. 

The tableau-vivant, being static, does not develop; 
it has neither beginning nor end. Ontani believes 
that art has an eternal presence, and thus should 
assume a non-temporal structure. This structure 
may be likened to the timeless dimension of dreams, 

where figures float back and forth, appear and dis- 
appear without regard for rational thought and or- 
der. Not only linear but historical time as well ceases 
to exist for Ontani. He regards myth, fable and his- 
tory from a contemporary, personal point of view, 
so that he does not copy the subject, but rather 
re-creates, reinterprets and recycles it. Once re- 
cycled, the story becomes an actual event and thus 
lives a parallel existence with its original incarna- 

Time also does not exist for Ontani, because he 
never finishes his works, but recycles them within 
the context of his oeuvre, returning people to his 
wonderful miniature books, journals or diaries of his 
imaginative re-creations. He combines characters 
from different eras and media, creating new con- 
texts that add compelling dimensions to the original 

Ontani first appeared in public in 1973 at his ex- 
hibition at Contemporanea in Rome: he was dressed 
as Tarzan in a blond wig and a minute jungle-printed 
loincloth. He read Tarzan stories aloud, and a tape 
machine beside him supplied the cries of wild ani- 
mals. His most concentrated performance activity 
took place at the Galleria L'Attico in Rome from 
1974 to 1976, when he enacted Don Quixote de La 
Mancha, Don Giovanni, Superman and Dracula, to 
name a few. He reinforced his identity as Dracula 
by performing this piece between sunset and sun- 
rise, the hours to which this character confined his 

Ontani's reincarnations are voyages of sorts, visits 
to other lands, cities and cultures under assumed 
identities. However, real travel has been an im- 
portant impetus for Ontani's art. He considers a 
voyage to be a creative experience in itself. He dis- 
tinguishes between the experience as a work of art 
and the souvenirs of the voyage as the traces of that 
experience. Between 1974 and 1978 Ontani made 
five excursions to India — voyages that revealed 
myths to feed his art and ignited an incandescent 
fantasy that led him more than ever to live the life of 
the images he re-created. His Indian travels tinged 
his already delightful imagination with an exoticism 
that continues to nourish his art. The journeys cul- 

minated in the creation of an assemblage of auto- 
biographical photographs, En route vers I'lnde (cat. 
no. 48), presented at the 1978 Venice Biennale. 
These photographs show Ontani dressed in Oriental 
fashion, in beautiful silk pyjamas, embroidered tu- 
nics, turbans fashioned by India's most skilful tai- 
lors. Ontani tints his photographs according to an 
antique process, developed long before the inven- 
tion of color film, painting areas and conferring on 
them the patina of age. He uses a feast of exotic 
colors — emerald greens, turquoises, cobalt blues 
and purples — which evoke the marvelous atmo- 
sphere of the land of his travels. And two new 
characters enter his repertory: Shiva and Krishna, 
gods of a thousand arms and a thousand faces. 

The experience of coloring photographs encour- 
aged Ontani to explore a new realm, that of draw- 
ing. His drawings are characterized by minute and 
highly detailed execution, graceful calligraphy, pas- 
tel yet luminous colors and lightness of mood. On- 
tani brings to all his work a painter's sensibility, for 
balance of color and clarity of tone are of utmost 
importance to him. A heightened luminosity per- 
vades even his smallest drawings. For example, the 
pages of a book executed in India are hand-colored 
with a high-key shocking pink. Even in his juxtaposi- 
tions of photographs for catalogue layouts he ma- 
nipulates color to dramatic and powerful effect. 
Thus, in the present catalogue the intense red of 
Dante's garb abuts the stark black and white of 
Pinocchio's costume in Dante and Pinocchio (cat. 
nos. 42, 43). Iconography, as in the past, is culled 
from various epochs and summarizes or recovers 
private myth but is now projected onto paper 
through drawing. As always, the recognizable sub- 
jects are reinvented in an explicitly personal way: 
for example, Ontani depicts himself as the main 
protagonist in The Flagellation of Christ (cat. no. 
54). Other drawings show a pagan paradise on earth 
with figures engaged in playfully sexual and other 
pleasurable activities. The Three Graces, another 
of Ontani's favorite themes, is the subject of thirty- 
one watercolors and two photographs, each ex- 
pressing a different interpretation of the three god- 
desses who enhanced the enjoyment of life. Thus, 



Ontani mummifies the goddesses in one work and 
casts them in the guise of fantastic creatures that 
are Boschian yet innocent in another (cat. nos. 56, 
49). Ontani does not abandon the tableau-vivant 
format for drawing, for he treats both as different 
manifestations of a similar expression and believes 
that the passage from one medium to another is only 
a matter of perception. Indeed, his tableaux-vivants 
dating from the late seventies are among his most 

Ontani's images are often born on the occasion 
of an exhibition. The persona in such instances is 
suggested to him by the space or the associations 
of the geographic location in which he is showing. 
Thus, at his first one-man show in New York at the 
Sonnabend Gallery in 1977, he presents Renais- 
sance painting as interpreted by the American artist 
Joseph Cornell (cat. no. 47). A slide of a checker- 
board floor is projected onto the gallery floor, con- 
veying the notion of perspective as invented in the 
fifteenth century. Similarly, projected onto the wall 
is a slide of a typical Renaissance landscape. The 
artist stands virtually nude, sporting only a red cap 
and holding a toy gun, next to the landscape, with 
a nude figure from a Renaissance painting projected 
onto his body. On both formal and conceptual 
planes, Ontani's large collaged images parallel the 
levels of the tiny images in Cornell's own small, ex- 
quisite boxes and collages. Thus, through a thought- 
ful layering of iconographies, Ontani pays homage 
to Cornell's Medici Princes. 

Ontani selects the theme of the Astronaut (cat. no. 
46) for his American performance at the Kitchen 
Center in New York in 1979. In this static simulation 
of a space flight, Ontani wears only a large white 
donut-shaped helium tube around his waist and a 
transparent space helmet on his head. Projected 
onto the walls around him are slides of spaceships, 
of planetary bodies (including Saturn, whose rings 
echo the one that encircles the artist's waist), of the 
paintings of Creti and de Chirico (to lend a Neopla- 
tonic and metaphysical dimension). Films featuring 
late Italian Renaissance paintings were shown, and 
the event was accompanied by the music of Verdi 
and Puccini. 

Also in 1979 Ontani produced a complex installa- 
tion entitled Pentagonia (cat. no. 51) at the Galleria 
Mario Diacono in Bologna. Here, for the first time, 
photographs in object-like three-dimensional geo- 
metric frames are substituted for the human body 
as subject matter. In another interesting departure 
from the tableau-vivant format, Ontani exhibited 
Sell-Portrait of Gilded Paper Patterns (cat. no. 52) 
at Mario Diacono in 1981. The "portrait" was com- 
prised of thirty-five patterns for his clothing, devised 
by his sister Tullia, which were fastened to the wall 
with dressmaker's pins. Ontani decorated these pat- 
terns like sacred objects, bedecking them with a 
myriad of gilded figures, vaguely suggestive of 
hieroglyphics. Despite the absence of the literal 
image or presence of the artist, autobiography is 
strongly felt in this work. 

One of the primary delights of Ontani's work in all 
media is supplied by his whimsical use of scale. He 
amuses himself and the reader by his playful and 
unexpected manipulation of proportion and orienta- 
tion in his miniature books. Thus, the orientation of 
imagery is always shifting, the scale of figures jumps 
from page to page, writing runs over the paper diag- 
onally or races up margins. Similarly, the tableaux- 
vivants incorporate photographs of many different 
sizes taken at various distances, and images pro- 
jected by slides showing an extraordinary range of 
focus, amplification and distortion. The dimensional 
leaps of his images parallel the metamorphoses of 
Ontani's body; both confuse the viewer, contribut- 
ing to the ambiguity the artist consciously cultivates. 

Ontani describes his work as "the adventure I live 
as a person of art," and, indeed, to experience his 
work is to partake of that adventure. He integrates 
the use of his body, the exoticism of the Orient, and 
the world of fact and fantasy into a lyric statement 
that is suffused with a childlike naivete, an almost 
angelic innocence. He wears a variety of masks, but 
they are always beautiful. Though his artistic state- 
ment is serious, his wit and humor transport it into 
the realm of the charming and delightful. Like a 
child who is captivated by the magic of myth and 
fables, so Ontani travels through his own personal 
mythology with uninhibited pleasure. 

Selected Group Exhibitions 

Centrer Za Umetmost, Novisad, Yugoslavia, 1973 

Festival d'Aprile, Belgrade, 1973 

Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund, Photomedia, 
March-April 1974. Catalogue with text by Daniela 

Galleria Marconi, Milan, La ripetizione dillerente, 
October 1974. Catalogue with text by Renato Barilli 

Kunstmuseum Luzern, Transformer: Aspekte der 
Traveslie. November 1974. Traveled to Museum 
Bochum, Germany, February-March 1975. Cata- 
logue with text by Jean-Christophe Ammann 

Max Protetch Gallery, New York, Italian Avant- 
Garde, November 1974 

Belgrade, Festival Expended Media, 1974 

Galerie Im Taxipalais, Innsbruck, Selbstportrat als 
Selbstdarstellung, October 1975. Catalogue with 
text by P. Weiermaier 

Jerusalem Museum, 1975 

Galleria Municipale d'Arte Moderna, Turin, 1960- 
1977: Arte in Italia, May 1977. Catalogue with texts 
by Francesca Alinovi, Renato Barilli, Antonio Del 
Guercio and Filiberto Menna 

Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Bologna, Settimana inter- 
nazionale delta performance. June 1977. Catalogue 
with texts by Francesca Alinovi and Renato Barilli. 

Venice, La Biennale di Venezia: Dalla natura all'arte, 
dall'arte alia natura, June 1978. Catalogue with text 
by Lara-Vinca Masini 

Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Bologna, Died: anm dopo: 
i nuovi nuovi, opening March 15, 1980. Catalogue 
with texts by Francesca Alinovi, Renato Barilli and 
Roberto Daolio 

Galleria Ugo Ferranti, Artemesia, May 1980. Cata- 
logue with text by Achille Bonito Oliva 

Pinacoteca Comunale e Museo Civico, Ravenna, 
Tutte le arti tendono alia performance. May 1980. 
Catalogue with text on Ontani by Francesca Alinovi 

Kunsthalle Basel, Sandro Chia, Francesco Cle- 
mente, Enzo Cucchi, Nicola De Maria, Luigi Ontani, 
Mimmo Paladino, Ernesto Tatatiore, May-June 1980. 
Traveled to Museum Folkwang, Essen; Stedelijk 
Museum, Amsterdam. General catalogue with texts 
by Jean-Christophe Ammann, Achille Bonito Oliva 
and Germano Celant; supplementary catalogue on 
Ontani with text and drawings by the artist 

Holly Solomon Gallery, New York, The Italian Wave, 
June 1980. Catalogue with text on Ontani by Fran- 
cesca Alinovi 

Palazzo Mazzancolli Terni, Bestiario, June-July 
1980. Catalogue with text by Silvana Sinisi 

Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea, Ferrara, La 
qualita: sviluppo dei nuovi nuovi, May-June 1981. 
Catalogue with texts by Francesca Alinovi, Renato 
Barilli and Roberto Daolio 

Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome, Arte e 
critica 1981 , July-October 1981. Catalogue with text 
on Ontani by Silvana Sinisi 

Chiesa di Sant'Antonio and Biblioteca Comunale, 
Taormina, Taormina fin de siecle, September- 
October 1981. Catalogue with text by Italo Mussa 

Galleria Graziano Vigato, Alessandria, Al di la' delta 
soglia, November 1 981 . Catalogue with text by 
Marisa Vescovo 

Selected One-Man Exhibitions 

Centro Culturale, San Fedele, Milan, La stanza delle 
similitudmi: oggetti pleonastici, January 1970. 
Catalogue with text by Renato Barilli 

Galleria Diagramma, Milan, and Palazzo Diamanti, 
Ferrara, Teotania (spazio teolanico). 1970-1971 

Galleria Flori, Florence, January 1971 

Contemporanea, Rome, Tarzan, 1973-74 

Modern Art Agency, Naples, Pulcinella, March 1974 

Galleria L'Attico, Rome, Don Quixote de la Mancha, 
Don Giovanni, Superman, November 1974; Dracula, 
January 1975; Sia la luce, Gibigianna/Alnus. Boogie 
Woogie, February 1976; En route vers I'lnde, May 

Lp. 220, Turin, Gianduja, November 1974 

De Appel, Amsterdam, Grillo, November-December 

Galerie Meana Sonnabend, Paris, L' Indifferent, May 

Galleria Sperone, Milan, Gentiluomo con tricorno. 
November 1976 

Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Bologna, Endimione, June 

Koepelzaal, Amsterdam, Muzikale Hel, July 1977 

Sonnabend Gallery, New York, Medici Prince, Sep- 
tember 24-October 1, 1977 

Franz Paludetto, Turin, Evangelista, December 1978 

Galleria Mario Diacono, Bologna, Pentagonia, May- 
June 1979. Catalogue with text by Mario Diacono 

The Kitchen Center, New York, Astronaut, Novem- 
ber 1,1979 



A Space, Toronto, Dedicated to Lucius Richard 
O'Brien, December 16, 1979 

Palazzo Ducale, Appartamento Doge, Genoa, 
Zefiro, 1979 

Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples, May 1980 

Massimo Minini, Brescia, October-December 1980 

Galleria Mario Diacono, Rome, February 1981; 
March 7-31, 1981 

Massimo Minini, Milan, February 1981 

Eva Manzio and Elena Pron, Turin, May 1981 

Selected Bibliography 


Composizione, Galleria Ferrari, Verona Le Arti, 
Milan, 1970 

"Luigi Ontani," Flash Art, no. 44-45, April 1974, 
p. 11 

Poesiae Adulescientiae, Franz Paludetto, Turin, 

"Romanticismo post concettuale," Flash Art, 
no. 78-79, November-December 1977, p. 29 

Acervus, Dacic, Tubingen, 1978 


Newspapers and Periodicals 

Nivo Suri, "Milano e la sua attivita stagionale," 
D'Ars, January/February 1970 

Tommaso Trini, "Mostre d'inverno a Milano," 
Domus, no. 483, February 1970, p. 50b 

Giuse Benignetti, "Lettera da Firenze," D'Ars, 
March 1971 

"Fotografia e comportamentismo," Progresso 
Fotografico, no. 3, March 1974 

Valerio Riva, "Avanguardie/Body Art/Nudi alia 
Cometa," L' Espresso, no. 21, May 26, 1974 

Benjamin Forgey, "Six Italian Avant-Garde Artists 
Who Ponder the Paradox of Time," Star News, 
Washington, D.C., October 18, 1974 

Gianni Contessi and Luigi Ontani, "Nuovo Manieris- 
mo," Data, no. 13, Fall 1974 

Luca Maria Venturi, "Nuovi Artisti," Dafa, no. 14, 
Winter 1974 

"Special on Photoworks," Flash Art, no. 52-53, 
February-March 1975, p. 46 

Umberto Eco, "Corpo e concetto artista perfetto," 
L'Espresso, Rome, March 30, 1975 

Werner Lippert, "Das Selbstportrat als Bildtypus," 
Kunstlorum International, no. 14, March 1975, 
pp. 99-124 

Corinna Ferrari, "Don Quixote de la Mancha," 
Casabella, no. 401 , May 1 975, p. 1 4 

Luigi Paola Finizio, "Dal corpo al concetto," D'Ars, 
vol. 16, May 1975 

"Luigi Ontani," Flash Art, no. 54-55, May-June 
1975, p. 13 

Bruno Cora, "24 ore su 24," Dafa, no. 15, Spring 
1975, pp. 2-5 

Achille Bonito Oliva, "24 ore su 24," Studio 
International, no. 190, September-October 1975, 
pp. 154-155 

Achille Bonito Oliva, "Spazio a tempo pieno," 
Casabella, November 1975 

Achille Bonito Oliva, "Process, Concept and Be- 
haviour in Italian Art," Studio International, no. 191, 
January 1976, pp. 3-10 

Caroline Tisdall, "Performance Art in Italy," Studio 
International, no. 191, January 1976, pp. 42-45 

Renato Barilli, "Oggi espone Alambicchi," 
L'Espresso. Rome, December 5, 1976 

Edit De Ak, "Luigi Ontani: Sonnabend Gallery, New 
York," Artforum, vol. 16, December 1977, pp. 61-62 

Valentin Tatransky, "Luigi Ontani: Sonnabend Gal- 
lery, New York," Arts Magazine, vol. 52, December 
1977, p. 16 

Francesco Vincitorio, "Pentagonia," L'Espresso, no. 
23, Rome, June 1979 

Joseph Masheck, "Neo-Neo," Artforum, vol. 18, 
September 1979, pp. 40-48 

Attanasio Di Felice, "Luigi Ontani: The Kitchen/ 
New York," Flash Art, no. 94-95, January-February 
1980, p. 51 

Francesco Vincitorio, "Ontani," L'Espresso, Rome. 
March 1980 

Francesca Alinovi, "L'arte mia," Iterarte, June 1980 

Francesca Alinovi, "D'arte vestito," Domus Moda, 
October 1980 

Francesca Alinovi, "Luigi Ontani," Flash Art. no. 
100, October-November 1980 

Jean-Christophe Ammann. Paul Groot, Pieter 
Heynen and Jan Zumbrink, "Un altre arte?," 
Museumjournaal, serie 25, December 1980, pp. 

Jean-Christophe Ammann. Skira Annuel, Geneva, 

Italo Mussa, "Le avventure della pittura nella nuova 
scuola romana," Flash Art, no. 103, May 1981, p. 43 

Italo Mussa, "Luigi Ontani: Mario Diacono/Roma," 
Flash Art. no. 103, May 1981, p. 54 


Renato Barilli, "Le ricerche di comportamento," 
/ problemi di Ulisse. Florence, 1973 

Catalogo nazionale Bolafli d'arte moderna no. 9, 
segnalati Bolalli 1974: 50 arlisli scelti da 50 critici, 
Turin, 1973, pp. 106-107 

Returned to Sender. Informazioni 2, Galleria 
Schema, Florence, February-March 1974 

Lea Vergine, // corpo come linguaggio, Milan, 1974 

Barbara Reise, So-Called Conceptual Art. London, 

Achille Bonito Oliva, Drawing — Transparence, 
Macerata, 1976 

Achille Bonito Oliva, Europa/ America, Milan, 1976 

Francesca Alinovi, "L'Ombrofago," La fotogratia: 
illusione o rivelazione, Bologna, 1980 


Contemporanea, Mapa '72, Rome, 1970-72 
Galleria Schema, Florence, 1970-72 
Gerry Schum, Venice, 1970-72 
Studio Bentivoglio, Bologna, 1970-72 
Studio STS, Rome, 1970-72 
Festival del due mondi, Spoleto, 1 971 
Centro sperimentale di Brera, Milan, 1976 


Color voglia; Deserto; Fuochino; Lavaggio; Monto- 
volo; Neo; Occhio pineale; Onfalo; Sacco e om- 
brello; Spirito di patate; Svenimenti; Tetto 

Ontani has designed the following pages. 73 
















44 Bacchus < Bacchino). 1973 

Life-size photograph by Cesare Bastel 
Collection Franz Paludetto, Turin 

39% x 78%" (100 x 200 cm.) 



■-■:■■ ■■■■.•■>: \ 

ti'x-Aj -, I < ".'••'■ i il. V!.' 


45 ( bristophei Columbus > ristoforo Colombo). £975 Life-size photograph by Gwenn Thomas 

vi ■ \ -~ 1 "(100 x70cm.) Collection Fabio Sargentini, Rome 

46 Astronaut. 1979 Tableau-vivant Installation view, The Kitchen Center, New York, November 1, 1979 


47 Medici Prince. 19 — 1 ableau vivant after [oseph ( ornell Installation view, Sonnabend Gallery, New 'i ork. [97 


^ OS 





























49 3 Graces, Grasshopper (3 grazie, grillo). 19X0 Ink and watercoloron paper, ca. 6%" (ca. rem.' d. Collection of the artisl 

50 Leda and the Swan (Leda e il cigno). 1975 Life-size photograph by Cesare Bastelli 39% x 59V6" (100 x 150 cm.) 

Collection Fabio Sargentini, Rome 


51 Pentagonia. 1979 Installation view, Galleria Mario Diacono, Bologna, [979 Collection Achille Maramotti, Reggio Emilia 



-a 2 

O o 

5 u 




>° .^ 


.s a 



A ' 


tf C^ 

* .,/ # ,/° #° 

,' t 

c^ ,r ,/ 

^ .# > 

y .^ 

t y 

■^ .jr y + 


.<" ^ 

^ ,#* 

.^ y 

/ j? y y ^ 

.r ..>' 

■/ ,/° v* V X* 1 ■/ / ■/ • 

/ y .y y ,y> v y ** 


<f * 

>" ,# 


•.A u 


/ <^' 

/ ,/ .• ,f y y * 


" ^ ■/' y /~ ,/■ vo^" ^ u " «r 

/ ^ oX ./ / j l y y- d$ # 

.,0 . 0^ 


/ ./° V^ Of / Z ^ 

r S> v* tf* v 




^ .„<* 

A ^ 

,^ >' 









53 New York. 1981 Tempera on canvas, seven panels, total n8Vs x nSVg" (3°o x 300 cm.) 
Courtesy Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples 


54 The Flagellation of Christ. 198 1 China wash on paper, 27716" (70 cm.) d. Collection Luciano Pistoi 

55 Taprobane. 1981 Ink and watercolor on paper, 39% x 39%" (100 x 100 cm.) Collection Ingeborg Liischer 

56 5 Graces/ Mummies (3 grazie mummie). 1980 Ink and watercolor on paper, 39^" (155 cm.) d. Collection of the artist 87 

Giuseppe Penone 

Statement by the artist 

The hand that modeled man has left upon him prints 
tilled by water and air as our movements vary. 
Indeed, air in filling the prints remakes the maker's 
skin; the skin of whoever touches the man tends to 
acquire at that point the shape of the maker's skin. 
With the negative of his skin impression one can 
make an infinite number of positives, just as many 
positives as there will be contacts with the surface 
in the future. The peaceful state of our body when 
it is in contact with the air derives from the absence 
of pressure and weakened resistance which the air 
offers to our penetration. According to our senses, 
a rapid penetration in the air provokes in us a sen- 
sat/on of pressure, and the fluid elements tend to 
become solid. Clay, a solid element which has 
always been connected to fluids, and with its char- 
acteristics of plasticity, reproduces in its move- 
ments the behavior of fluids. The whirling, rotating 
movement produced by the potter tends to facilitate 
the formation of a vortex in the clay, a typically fluid 
form, a vortex instantly completed by the air the 
potter rapidly encloses within it. 

Above all, the virgin forest must be considered, 
where the air is enclosed in the leaves in continuous 
flux under the thrust of the wind's logic, ready to 
occupy the intervals of quiet, privileged negatives 
of the form in movement that in repeating itself 
tends to sculpt itself. Eyelids closed, body numbed, 
impressed upon an ancient bed; the nape of the 
neck drowns in the foliage and, with open mouth, 
the breath sinks into the pile of leaves. Air coursing 
through the leaves produces the sound, they are 
food for goats, the lymph that courses produces the 
leaves, prolongs the earth and permits the pulling 
away of the bark that, tilled with air in place of the 
wood, becomes an instrument of sound. Elements 
lormed in the air and by the air, in habitual contact 
with the wind, modeled by the wind, transported by 
the wind. Retraced by the hand of man, the con- 
tours, the whirlpools, the small vortexes, the wrin- 
kling presences of the wind are repeated. To repeat, 
the wind, the leaves remake themselves. 


Born in Garessio, 1947 

Attends Accademia delle Belle Arti, Turin, 1966-68 

Artist in residence, Monchengladbach, Germany, 

Teaches at Liceo Artistico, Turin, 1970-present 

Lives and works in Garessio and Turin 

Giuseppe Penone's artistic activity cannot be iso- 
lated from the activity of nature: united, they form a 
work of art. The primal forces of nature acting on 
the environment, combined with the artist's actions 
form an overwhelming and intensely symbolic, at 
times symbiotic, relationship. Penone's art is, in 
essence, an intimate dialogue between himself and 
nature, a dialogue which has been an integral part 
of his existence since childhood. 

Penone grew up outside of Turin in the rural com- 
munity of Garessio, a village on the border of the 
Ligurian Alps and the Valle Padena. From prehis- 
toric times the vicissitudes of nature and weather 
have directed the course of village life. Traces of 
human activity dating from the Neolithic and Ice 
Ages abound in the region: implements of ancient 
cultures, as well as stones incised with plant and 
animal motifs by prehistoric artisans have been dis- 
covered. Indeed, these archaeological finds have 
become a source of inspiration for Penone, who 
feels a spiritual affinity with primitive man in his 
close relationship with the earth. Conscious of the 
way natural forces and man have acted upon stone, 
trees and the environment in general. Penone has 
sought to use the lessons of his observations in his 
art and to make an imprint on nature that will be 
visible to future generations. In 1975 he used paper 
to make a topographical map which reproduced the 
fingerprints of a potter found on a shard of an an- 
cient terra-cotta vase. Although he was satisfied 
with this map, he feels that the use of clay instead 
of paper would have allowed nim to rediscover the 
shape of the fragment. To illustrate his belief in the 
possibilities of artistic intervention in the processes 
of growth and change in nature, he executed a piece 
for his first one-man show in 1968 — he tightly 
grasped the trunk of a tree with his hand and later 
placed an iron cast of his hand in the identical posi- 

tion on the tree. His message is directly conveyed 
by the title of the work: The Tree Will Continue to 
Grow, Except at that Point. 

Penone shares elements of his artistic ideology 
with a group of artists working in and around Turin. 
In the late sixties, these artists, who included Merz, 
Zorio, Anselmo and Boetti, were searching for a new 
relationship to nature and to history. The critic Ger- 
mano Celant named the resulting movement Arte 
Povera: "Like an organism of simple structure, the 
artist mixes himself with the environment, camou- 
flages himself, he enlarges his threshold of things. 
[The artist] draws from the substance of a natural 
event — that of the growth of a plant . . . the move- 
ment of a river, of snow, grass and land, the fall of 
a weight — he identifies with them in order to live 
the marvelous organization of things."' As Penone 
developed, he drew on Conceptualist and Minimalist 
aesthetics as well as on Arte Povera. He adapted the 
intellectualism of Conceptualism and the formalism 
of Minimalism, filtering both through his poetic sen- 
sibility. In its final synthesis, his artistic vision is 
so individual as to defy classification into a single 

Penone's uniqueness derives primarily from the 
affirmation of a perfect syntony which in its extreme 
suggests the artist's bodily fusion with all of nature. 
Penone writes: 

In order to produce sculpture the sculptor must 
lie down, flatten himsell on the ground letting his 
body slide, without lowering himself hastily, gen- 
tly, little by little and finally, having reached a 
horizontal position, he must concentrate his at- 
tention and his efforts upon his body, which, 
pressed against the ground, allows him to see 
and feel against himself the things of the earth; 
he can then open his arms to fully enjoy the cool- 
ness of the ground and attain the necessary de- 
gree of peace for the accomplishment of sculp- 
ture. . . . When he finally feels light-headed, the 
coldness of the earth cuts him in half and allows 
him to see with clarity and accuracy the point 
which detaches the part of his body which be- 
longs to the void of the sky, and the part that 
belongs to the fullness of the earth. It is at that 
moment that sculpture occurs. 2 

One of Penone's deepest concerns is the dis- 
covery of things hidden or internal in nature. He 

seeks to make visible through his art well-known but 
invisible natural processes. He strives for a restitu- 
tion to its original state that which has been altered 
or forgotten. For example, in 1969 Penone stripped 
the bark off a section of a tree and made from it 
a forty-foot-long, ten-inch-square beam (see cat. 
nos. 57, 58). Then he gouged out of the beam the 
hidden form of the tree from which it had been 
made. He shaped the trunk, paying attention both to 
the grain of the wood and the concentric rings of the 
cross section which indicated the tree's age. He 
worked around the knots and burls of the wood to 
pull back into visibility the limbs and branches that 
had formed them. In this way, positive volume was 
uncovered, not built. The tree was not shaped en- 
tirely in the round; one side remained uncarved, 
anchored to the untouched portion of the beam, 
which served as a base (the piece was exhibited 
either horizontally or leaning diagonally). By leaving 
a portion of the beam uncarved, Penone keeps alive 
a dialogue between that which is man-made and 
that which is natural. The tree remains suspended 
between two states: one of completion, one of in- 
completion. Thus Penone keeps the piece in the 
realm of sculpture: had he discovered the entire 
tree while carving, it would have become another 
tree — and the work of art would no longer have 

Penone is executing a tree for exhibition at the 
Guggenheim, and the unique character of the Mu- 
seum's space, as designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, 
dictates certain changes in the conception of this 
tree. Firstly, Penone will carve the tree completely 
in the round, exposing all its parts except for the 
base, a three and half-foot-tall, fifteen-inch-square 
remnant of the beam from which it was hewn. As 
in his earlier tree, the artist's challenge will be to 
find the form of the tree inside the beam, the par- 
ticular tree whose specific age is indicated by the 
rings inside the wood. The concentric rings of the 
Guggenheim's spiral may be interpreted as echoing 
the concentric rings of Penone's tree. Perhaps on 
a more general level Wright's sensitivity to natural 
form appeals to Penone. Because the Museum's 
spiral is a man-made structure directly inspired by 



natural form, Penone's response to the architecture 
involves a complex interplay between the man-made 
and the natural. Secondly, the Museum offers the 
sculptor an opportunity to orient the tree vertically. 
The vertical is significant for Penone, who feels that 
sculpture is traditionally vertical rather than hori- 
zontal. Moreover, this orientation adds an anthro- 
pomorphic dimension to the piece, as man relates 
more easily to the vertical. The dialogue between 
art and nature lives on in this new work. It is closer 
to nature and closer to art than any of his previous 
work: closer to nature because it looks more like a 
tree; closer to art because it retains more of the 
formal properties of traditional sculpture. 

Penone's deep concern with purity and beauty of 
form, whether man-made or natural, recalls Bran- 
cusi, an artist he very much admires. The Rumanian 
sculptor always displayed a profound respect for 
the inherent properties of wood, sometimes carving 
his shapes to conform to the way the branches grew 
from the tree trunk. Penone feels a deep affinity 
with Brancusi because of the master's belief in the 
poetic unity and harmonious coexistence of man 
and nature. His vision was attuned to the realm of 
essences; he maintained that art should find its 
inspiration in reality, not in the image. 

Penone uses casting as well as carving. This 
process allows him to explore the relationship be- 
tween positive and negative volumes, a dialogue 
that informs most of his work and, indeed, is cen- 
tral to the very concept of sculpture. Casting also 
permits him to take forms that have been altered by 
real actions and bring them back to nearly their orig- 
inal states. For example, in 1972 Penone made a 
plaster cast of his torso. Then he photographed the 
portion of the torso he had cast. The resulting slide 
showed areas of his body where hairs, torn away 
from his skin by the plaster, were missing. When the 
slide was projected onto the cast, however, Penone 
seemed to have reached his starting point again, 
because the sculpture and the slide together con- 
stituted an image much like the original torso. 

In his Potatoes (cat. no. 60), Penone tests how far 
the forms of nature can be subjected to the pressure 
of the art form and still remain natural. Penone took 

impressions of his facial features and made molds 
from them — the results were negative versions of 
positive volumes. He buried these molds with ger- 
minating potatoes, so that in time they would force 
the potatoes into physiognomical forms. The pro- 
cess was successful with five potatoes, which Pen- 
one subsequently cast in bronze and exhibited 
among a pile of normal potatoes. Here the artist's 
concern with alterations of systems of growth and 
positive and negative volumes finds a new and 
highly original synthesis. 

Terra-cotta is deeply rooted in the long tradition 
of Italian art: the sculptors of the Renaissance, the 
ancient Romans and also the Greeks before them 
favored its use. The recovery of terra-cotta as a 
viable material has allowed contemporary artists to 
rediscover rich possibilities and reinvent new and 
vital forms. Penone sees terra-cotta as a material of 
the earth whose properties are quite different in its 
natural as opposed to its fired state. Moreover, the 
fluidity of the medium when mixed with water and 
its ability to capture ephemeral forms which do not 
lose their freshness when the clay hardens appeal to 
Penone's poetic sensibility. In his terra-cotta sculp- 
tures Penone reopens the question of how to make 
visible what is well-known but invisible (or barely 
visible) in nature, in this case, the process of 
breathing. Penone's terra-cottas are called Breath 
(Softio) and take two forms — vases and leaves (cat. 
nos. 61-63, 68). Indeed, the two forms are combined 
in one image in the later works. The artist seeks to 
rediscover in his Soffi the process of breathing, the 
breath being both an extension of man and of 
nature, in the form of wind. When a vase maker con- 
structs a vase on the potter's wheel, his breath 
remains inside the work; his breath, in fact, gives 
the work its life. Penone relates this phenomenon to 
Egyptian mythology, where the creator of man was 
a vase maker: "Prometheus, son of Japhet and 
Clymene, modeled the men with mud and water 
while Athena blew into them the breath of life." 3 In 
fact, the word "sculptor" in Egyptian translates as 
one who gives life. 

For each leaf piece Penone amasses a large pile 
of leaves in the forest and then blows into the pile 

to obtain what he calls "the negative form" of blow- 
ing. He subsequently translates this into a terra- 
cotta equivalent — a large vase shape (cat. no. 62). 
The leaves displaced by blowing are suggested by 
the delicately modeled clumps of clay which define 
the undulating perimeter of the hollowed out nega- 
tive form. Penone leaned against the clay, leaving 
the imprint of his body visible on the vase, so that 
here, as in all of Penone's work, there is an intense 
human dimension. When the viewer presses against 
the sculpture, his body completes the work and he 
can blow into the palette-shaped mouthpiece. If one 
were to blow into a pile of real leaves, they would 
move, fill out the negative form and return to their 
original positions. But this cannot happen in the 
Soffi. Penone thus creates a tension between the 
original, concrete form and the abstract, implied 
possibilities of its altered version. 

For Penone, the reality of art is and remains a 
matter of association. His work illustrates various 
tangents of that reality, with an expressiveness 
which depends neither on drama nor pathos, but on 
beauty and poetry. His sculpture is quiet, but by no 
means reticent. Every action Penone imposes upon 
nature — whether external or his own body — opens 
up a dialogue between the natural and the man- 
made, the internal and the external, the fluid and 
the concrete, the vertical and the horizontal or be- 
tween negative and positive volume. Penone does 
not seek to interpret nature and its often mystical 
forces; he attempts only to portray the possibilities 
and limitations inherent in the encounter between 
the artist and nature. Such encounters have already 
produced, and will continue to produce, statements 
of poetic resonance and timeless beauty. 


1. Celant, Arte Povera, 1969, p. 225 

2. Kunstmuseum Luzern, 1977, p. 79 

3. Ibid., p. 78 

Selected Group Exhibitions 

Stadtische Kunsthalle, Diisseldorf, Prospect 69: 
Internationale Vorschau auf die Kunst in den 
Galerien der Avantgarde, September-October 1969 

Stadtisches Museum Leverkusen, Schloss Mors- 
broich, Konzeption — conception: Dokumentation 
einer heutigen Kunstrichtung, October-November 

Galleria Sperone, Turin, Disegni e progetti, 1969 

Museo Civico, Bologna, /// Biennale internazionale 
delta giovane pittura: Gennaio 70. Comportamenti. 
Progetti Mediazioni, January 1 970. Catalogue with 
texts by Renato Barilli, Maurizio Calvesi and Tom- 
maso Trini 

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Gallery, Biennial '70, May 
1970. Traveled to Kyoto Municipal Art Museum; 
Aichi Prefectural Art Gallery, Nagoya; Fukuoka 
Prefectural Culture House 

Kunstmuseum Luzern, Processi di pensiero vis- 
ualizzati: Junge italienische avantgarde, May-July 

1970. Catalogue with texts by Jean-Christophe 
Ammann and Germano Celant 

Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Turin, Conceptual 
Art, Arte Povera, Land Art, June-July 1970. Cata- 
logue with texts by Germano Celant, Lucy Lippard 
and A. Passoni 

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Information, 
July-September 1970 

Sala di Cultura, Modena, Arte e critica '70, 1970 

Kunstverein Miinchen, Munich, Arte Povera: 13 
italienische Kunstler, May-June 1971. Catalogue 
with text by Germano Celant 

Pare Floral de Paris, Bois de Vincennes, Septieme 
Biennale de Paris: Manifestation biennale et Inter- 
nationale des jeunes artistes, September-November 

1971. Catalogue with text by Achille Bonito Oliva 

Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy, 
Andover, Massachusetts, Formulation, 1971 

Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany, Docu- 
menta V, June-October 1972. Catalogue 

Galerie MTL, Brussels, Huit Italiens/Acht Italianen, 
January-February 1 973. Traveled to Art and Project, 

Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, X Ouadriennale 
nazionale d'arte: La ricerca estetica dal 1960 al 
1970, May-June 1973 

Kunstverein Hannover, Kunst aus Fotografie. May- 
July 1973. Traveled to Stadtische Kunstsammlungen 
Ludwigshafen. Catalogue with text by Helmut R. 

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland Gallery, Bel- 
fast, An Exhibition of New Italian Art, November 



1973. Traveled to The David Hendriks Gallery, 

Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Turin, Combatti- 
mento per un'immagine, 1 973 

Stadtisches Museum Leverkusen, Die veriorene 
Identitat: Zur Gegenwart des Romantischen, May- 
June 1974. Catalogue with text by Rolf Wedewer 

Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne, 13 "Projekt '74" 
Artists. July 1974 

Kunsthalle Koln, Cologne, Projekt '74, Kunst bleibt 
Kunst: Aspekte internationaler Kunst am Antang der 
70er Jahre, July-September 1974. Catalogue with 
texts by M. Gruterich, W. Herzongenrath, D. Ronte, 
M. Schneckenburger, A. Schug and E. Weiss 

Galerie Magers, Bonn, 28 Selbstportrate, 1974. 
Catalogue with text by Werner Lippert 

Sao Paulo, XII Bienal de Sao Paulo, October- 
December 1975 

Galleria Sperone, Rome 1975 

Centre des Arts Plastiques Contemporains, Bor- 
deaux, Identite/ Identifications, April-June 1976 

Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne, Plane-Zeichnungen- 
Diagramme. September 1976 

Stadtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf, Prospectretro- 
spect, Europa 1946-1976, October 1976 

The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 
Recent International Forms in Art: The 1976 Bien- 
nial of Sydney, November-December 1976 

Kunsthaus Zurich, Malerei und Photographie im 
Dialog von 1840 bis Heute, May-July 1977 

Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Turin, Arte in Italia 
1960-1977, May-September 1977. Catalogue with 
texts by Francesca Alinovi, Renato Barilli, Antonio 
Del Guercio and Filiberto Menna 

Venice, La Biennale di Venezia: Dalla natura 
all' arte, dall'arte alia natura, June 1978. Catalogue 
with texts by Jean-Christophe Ammann, Achille 
Bonito Oliva, Antonio Del Guercio and Filiberto 

Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg, Das Bild des 
Kunstlers: Selbstdarstellungen, June-August 1978. 
Catalogue with text by Siegmar Holsten 

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Door beeldhouwers 
gemaakt: Made by sculptors, September-November 

Stadtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf, Museum des 
Geldes: Ueber die seltsame Natur des Geldes in 

Kunst, Wissenschaft und Leben l/ll, 1978. Traveled 
in 1978-79 to Kunstverein fur die Rheinlande und 
Westfalen; Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; 
Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre d'Art et de 
Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris 

Castello Colonna, Genazzano, Le Stanze, November 
1979. Catalogue with text by Achille Bonito Oliva 

Venice, La Biennale di Venezia: Aperto '80. Art in 
the Seventies, June 1980. Catalogue with texts by 
Achille Bonito Oliva, Michael Compton, Martin Kunz 
and Harald Szeemann 

Museen der Stadt, Cologne, Westkunst, May- 
August 1981. Catalogue with texts by Marcel Baum- 
gartner, Laszlo Glozer and Kasper Koenig 

Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre d'Art et de 
Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, Identite italienne: 
I' art en Italie depuis 1959, June-September 1981. 
Catalogue with text by Germano Celant 

Selected One-Man Exhibitions 

Deposito d'arte presente, Turin, 1968 

Galleria Sperone, Turin, December 1969; II pelo, 
come I'unghia e la pelle, occupa spazio, October 
1973; 1216 peli, March 1975 

Aktionsraum I, Munich, February 1970 

Galleria Toselli, Milan, 1970; 1973 

Incontri Internazionali d'Arte, Rome, Rovesciare i 
propri occhi, November 1971 

Galerie Paul Maenz, Cologne, July 1972; May-June 
1973; February-March 1975; un anno di arte 
italiana, January-February 1 978, catalogue with 
text by Germano Celant; 1980 

Galleria Multipli, Turin, February 1973; 6 opere. 
March 1975 

Galleria Sperone-Fischer, Rome, December 1973 

Galerie Klaus Liipke, Frankfurt, 1973 

Galerie 't Venster, Rotterdam. Piede 11972, Novem- 
ber-December 1 974 

Galleria Schema, Florence, 1974 

Samangallery, Genoa, April 1975 

Sperone Gallery, New York, 1975 

Nuovi Strumenti, Brescia, 1976 

Studio De Ambrogi, Milan, 1976 

Kunstmuseum Luzern, May 1977. Catalogue with 
texts by Jean-Christophe Ammann, Ugo Castag- 
notto and Giuseppe Penone 

Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Giuseppe 

Penone, January 1978. Catalogue with texts by 
Jean-Christophe Ammann, Renato Bar i 1 1 i , Giuseppe 
Penone and Hans Albert Peters 

Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Cologne, March 1978 

Museum Folkwang, Essen, September-October 
1978. Catalogue with texts by Germano Celant, 
Z. Felix and Giuseppe Penone 

Galleria De Crescenzo, Rome, October 1978 

Galleria Salvatore Ala, Milan, November 1978 

Galerie Durand-Dessert, Paris, January-February 

Studio G7, Bologna, 1979 

Halle fur internationale neue Kunst, Zurich, 
Giuseppe Penone: Zucche e nero assoluto o" Africa, 
November 1979-January 1980 

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Giuseppe Penone, 
February 1980. Catalogue with texts by Germano 
Celant and Giuseppe Penone 

Kabinett fur Aktuelle Kunst, Bremerhaven, April 

Galleria Christian Stein, Turin, May 1980 

Salvatore Ala, New York, March 1 981 

Konrad Fischer, Dusseldorf, September-October 

Selected Bibliography 


Svolgere la propria pelle, Turin, 1971 

With Jean-Christophe Ammann, Rovesciare gli 
occhi, Turin, 1977 

Rolf-Gunter Dienst, "Giuseppe Penone: Staatliche 
Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden," Kunstwerk, vol. 31, June 
1978, pp. 83-84 

"Giuseppe Penone: Folkwangmuseum, Essen," 
Heute Kunst, no. 24, January 1979, p. 8 

"Giuseppe Penone: Giuliana De Crescenzo/Roma," 
Flash Art, no. 86-87, January-February 1979, p. 13 

"Giuseppe Penone: Studio Ala/Milano," Flash Art, 
no. 86-87, January-February 1979, p. 9 

Corinna Ferrari, "Stanze del Castello," Domus, 
no. 604, March 1980, p. 55 

Laura Cherubini, "The Rooms: Castello Colonna/ 
Genazzano," Flash Art, no. 96-97, March-April, 
1980, pp. 42-43 

Giuseppe Risso, "Giuseppe Penone: Each Blow of 
the Hoe," Domus, no. 609, September 1980, p. 53 

Henry Martin, "The Italian Scene, Dynamic and 
Highly Charged," Art News, vol. 80, March 1981, 
pp. 70-77 

Lisa Liebmann, "Giuseppe Penone at Salvatore 
Ala," Art in America, no. 10, December 1981, pp. 


Germano Celant, Arte Povera, Milan, 1969 

Lea Vergine, II corpo come linguaggio, Milan, 1974 

Achille Bonito Oliva, Europa/ America, Milan, 1976, 
p. 235 

Paolo Mussat Sartor, Paolo Mussat Sartor /Foto- 
grafol 968-1 978 /Arte e Artisti in Italia, Turin, 1979, 
pp. 181-199 


Newspapers and Periodicals 

Henry Martin, "From Milan and Turin: Gian Enzo 
Sperone Gallery," Art International, vol. 15, Decem- 
ber 1971, pp. 75-76 

Tommaso Trini, "The Sixties in Italy," Studio Inter- 
national, vol. 184, November 1972, pp. 165-170 

Tommaso Trini, "Anselmo, Penone, Zorio e le nuove 
fonti d'energia per il deserto dell'arte," Data, no. 9, 
Autumn 1973, pp. 62-67 

Werner Lippert, "Das Selbstportrat als Bildtypus," 
Kunstforum International, no. 14, March 1975, pp. 

Werner Kruger, "Deutschland," Art International, 
vol. 19, April 20, 1975, p. 8 




Repeat the Forest (Ripetere il bosco). 1 969-80 


Installation view, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 



8 Meter Tree (Albero di 8 metri). 1 969 
Wood, 26'x7V2 x4" (8 m. x 19x10 cm.) 
Installation view, Salvatore Ala Gallery. New York, 







Eyelid (Palpebra). 1974; 8 Meier Tree (Albero di 
8 metri). 1969; Potatoes (Patate). 1977 
Installation view, Salvatore Ala Gallery, New York, 


Potatoes (Patate). 1977 

Cast bronze and potatoes 

Installation view, Salvatore Ala Gallery, New York. 








i' A v;-: .' -•■' 


» - -IV-, 


Breaths No. 4. 5, 6 (Sofli no. 4, 5, 6). 1 978 


Installation view, farmhouse courtyard, Castella- 

monte, province of Turin 


Breath No. 1 (Sottio no. 1 ). 1978 

Terra-cotta, 57% x 28 Vi x25 1 /2" (148 x 72 x 65 cm.) 

Collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 


/r »*»m¥mA 


-* r 

— - 



Pressure No. 4 (Pressione no. 4). 1978; Breath No. 2 

(Soffiono. 2). 1978 

Installation view, Museum Folkwang, Essen, 1978 

;■..■ f 



Squash (Zucca). 1978 

Photograph of altered vegetable before casting 



Squash (Zucche). 1979 

Detail, Squash and Absolute Black from Africa 
Bronze,51 x 31 Vi x15%";43 1 /4 x31 1 /2 X15V4" 
(130 x 80x40 cm.; 110x80 x 40 cm.) 
Collection Crex, Zurich 


Squash and Absolute Black from Africa (Zucche e 
nero assoluto a" Africa). 1978-79 
Installation view, Halle fur internationale neue 
Kunst, Zurich, 1979-80 






Clockwise: Vase (Vaso); Venus Horizontal (Venus 
orizzontale); Venus Vertical (Venus verticale): Tree 
(Albero); Hoe (Zappa); Breath ot Leaves and Tree ot 
Water (Solfio di foglie e albero d'acqua); Hoe II 
(Zappa II). All 1979-80 

Installation view, Halle fur international neue 
Kunst, Zurich, 1979-80 


Breath of Leaves (Soffio di foglie). 1979 

Cast bronze and leaves 

Installation view, artist's studio, Turin 


Vettor Pisani 


Statement by the artist 

II teatro a coda 

R.C. Theatrum, Teatro di artisti e di animali, si pud 
giustamente detinire un teatro a coda o con la coda 
perche in questo teatro Tutto e tutti hanno la coda 
(teatro democratico, una scuola d'arte aperta a tutti). 

La coda ce I'ha naturalmente if coniglio net Pic- 
colo Teatro. Ce I'ha la ballerina di nome Gio, in arte 
Rose Baby Casta, che indossa un abito da conigli- 
etta e che esegue nel Grande Teatro un vertiginoso 
strip-tease. Ce I'ha il musicista che somiglia 
all'Edipo di Khnoplt e che accompagna la ballerina 
con musiche di Satie. In verita lui esagera; di code 
ne ha due: indossa il frac. Ce I'ha lo strumento musi- 
cale che il musicista suona: un pianoforte a coda di 
colore nero. Ce I'ha il teatro tutto. Inlatti si pud con- 
siderare il Hume sul quale il teatro e costruito come 
la coda delta sua architettura a forma di Croce. 

Inline non vorrei dimenticare la coda dell'autore 
del teatro. Personalmente considero la mia fantasia 
(che non finisce mai) come la coda delta mia im- 
magiazione, dell'lo. 

Roma, estate 1981 

Architect, sculptor, painter and playwright (author 
of theatre). 

Son of a marine officer, descendant of a Venetian 
family established for many years on the island of 
Ischia, and a stripper. Born in Bari in 1935 on one 
of the numerous trips that his mother made while 
following his father from port to port. 

Entrusted to his father's family for his education, he 
lived on Ischia until 1945. 

Pisani moved to Naples where he attended a Jesuit 
school and subsequently began the study of archi- 

At 19, Pisani left his family definitively to become a 
disciple of an R.C. Master/Instructor. 

In 1970, after many years of study in complete si- 
lence, he exhibited for the first time in Rome, win- 
ning the Premio Nazionale Italiano della Critica 
d'Arte (Italian National Art Critics Award). 

He has founded in Rome, a city he rarely leaves, an 
R.C. theatre and school of art. 

The artist has requested that no further documenta- 
tion be included. 

"The labyrinth from which Theseus escaped by 
means of the clew of Ariadne was built by Daedalus, 
a most skilful artificer. It was an edifice with num- 
berless winding passages and turnings opening into 
one another, and seems to have neither beginning 
nor end, like the River Meander, which returns on 
itself, and flows now onward, now backward, in its 
course to the sea." 1 Vettor Pisani, a contemporary 
Daedalus, architect and artificer in his own right, 
expands upon the mythological definition of the 
labyrinth in his art: it is manifested physically as 
well as in a more abstract dimension where a num- 
ber of recurrent symbols intertwine to form a com- 
plex theatre of images and ideas. Among the themes 
he cultivates to this end are alchemy, the Oedipus 
legend, androgeny, the occult and Rosicrucianism. 
Pisani also pays homage to past history and its art- 
ists, most recently Duchamp, Beuys and Klein. He 
treats their art as material for making his own art, 
and subjects it to a critical and systematic analysis. 
For Pisani, art is about criticism; criticism is not 
only an attribute of art, it is art itself. Inseparable 
from the symbolic and critical elements of his work 
is an inherent concern with pure aesthetics, with 
color, scale and light, with classical harmony and 
formal clarity. 

Like the labyrinth and Oedipus legends he so re- 
veres, Pisani's art holds many secrets, secrets not 
easily unmasked. Nor is it Pisani's intention that the 
viewer penetrate the many-leveled symbolism, the 
often obscure mysticism he cultivates. Symbolism 
nourishes his art, which speaks to the sentiments 
expressed by the Symbolist poet, Mallarme: "To 
name an object is to suppress three-quarters of the 
pleasure in a poem, which is made to be discovered 
little by little: to suggest, that is the dream. It is the 
perfect use of this mystery which is the symbol: to 
evoke a thing little by little, in order to reveal its 
soul, or conversely, to choose an object and through 
gradual deciphering release its spirit." 2 

Pisani's oeuvre can be divided into two distinct 
phases: the Performance Art of the early seventies 
and the more object-oriented work of the latter half 
of the decade to the present. In performance Pisani 
found an outlet for his critical analysis of the work 

of other artists through which he is able to define 
himself as an artist. Performance Art in Italy has 
been based predominantly in Rome, and its major 
protagonists have included Pierpaolo Calzolari, 
Gino de Domincis, Jannis Kounellis and Pisani. 
American Performance Art was apolitical and cen- 
tered around the commonplace; the Happenings 
of the sixties, related to the Pop Art movement, 
integrated art and dance and involved everyday 
events, objects and environments and, often, the 
participation of the audience. European Perfor- 
mance Art reveals a distinctly different approach. 
Despite the charged social and political context of 
many of the performances, their content and vocab- 
ulary are highly sophisticated and arcane, drawn 
from cultural history and centered on masks, sym- 
bols, rituals and mythology. 

Pisani finds historical precedents for the perfor- 
mance aspects of his art, as well as for its concep- 
tual complexity, in the work of the two artists he 
most admires, Duchamp and Beuys. Both offer to 
him the concept of living, or life itself, as the cre- 
ative field: Duchamp in his continual testing of the 
boundaries between art and life, Beuys in his ex- 
pansion of the creative realm to include what he 
calls "actions." Duchamp's art assumes the contra- 
dictoriness of life itself; his perpetual investigation 
of the meaning of art ("Can one make works which 
are not works of 'art'?") was embodied in his Ready- 
mades, common manufactured objects elevated to 
the realm of art. These Readymades were for artists 
of Pisani's generation not only an antidote to the 
painterly aesthetic of the fifties, but an example of 
a kind of ideal freedom with which to develop their 
expression. Duchamp's elegance, detachment and 
irony are at opposite extremes to Beuys's approach 
to his commonplace subject matter: his brutal aes- 
thetics as well as his serious involvement with its 
social implications, its political and revolutionary 
possibilities. Nevertheless, Duchamp and Beuys 
have been equally pertinent for Pisani, who has syn- 
thesized and distilled their ideas to endow his own 
art with a richness of symbol, expression and form. 

Pisani's first one-man show in 1970 at the Gal- 
leria La Salita in Rome was the culmination of five 

years of a critical and systematic analysis of Du- 
champ's work. Entitled Studies of Marcel Duchamp 
1965-70: Masculine, Feminine, and Androgyne. In- 
cest and Cannibalism in Marcel Duchamp, the exhi- 
bition consisted of a text and a black plaque with 
the names of Marcel and his sister Suzanne incised 
in gold, a classical bust of Suzanne carved out of 
chocolate, which hung from a heavy apparatus at- 
tached to the ceiling, and a plastic bag of ground 
meat left to putrify. A theatrical performance was 
held in conjunction with the visual display. The 
many-leveled symbolism of alchemy, which involves 
the themes of the androgyne and brother-sister in- 
cest, two subjects of central concern to Duchamp, 
play an important part here, as throughout Pisani's 
work. Alchemy, an ancient art of obscure origins, 
was concerned with the transformation of base met- 
als into gold. In addition, alchemy has rich sym- 
bolic meaning in a psychological context. As Arturo 
Schwartz has written in a study on Duchamp: 

The material liberation ol philosophic gold from 
vulgar metal is a metaphor for the psychological 
processes concerned with the liberation of man 
from life's basic contradictions. . . . Only by ac- 
quiring this "golden understanding" will the adept 
succeed in achieving the higher consciousness 
that is the first stage toward the reconstitution, at 
a higher level, of the unity of his divided self. Jung 
terms this psychological process "individuation." 
. . . Individuation, in the alchemical sense, en- 
tails abolishing the conflicting male-female duality 
within the integrated personality of the reconsti- 
tuted Gnostic Anthropos, i.e. the original andro- 
gyne. . . . Here brother-sister incest is envisaged 
as a means of resolving the contradiction of the 
male-female duality in the reconstituted andro- 
gynous unity of the primordial being, endowed 
with eternal youth and immortality. 2 

The Duchampian themes of brother-sister love 
(embodied in references to the relationship between 
the artist and his sister Suzanne) and the sexual am- 
biguity of persona (for example, the ironic female 
disguise of his alter ego Rrose Selavy) are sources 
for numerous variations by Pisani on the subject of 
androgeny, such as his 1971 tableau Human Flesh 
and Gold. Here a gold breastplate with a female 
breast is strapped to the right side of a nude male, 
while a woman wears a tight black band that com- 



pletely covers and flattens her right breast. Through 
the juxtaposition ot male and female, an andro- 
genous being is suggested. Pisani has further ex- 
plored the alchemical aura of Duchamp's work in 
rituals he has performed with his sister Mimma's 

The alchemical writings of the Middle Ages are 
couched in symbolic and cryptic language which 
confers upon them an atmosphere of secrecy and 
mysticism and the status of a hermetic science. In 
fact, the alchemists often called themselves the 
"sons of Hermes," to whom they ascribed the ori- 
gins of their "Hermetic Art." Pisani has incorporated 
many of the precepts of alchemical doctrine into his 
works. For example, alchemical thought attached 
great importance to color (in particular black, white, 
yellow and red) and color changes, concepts which 
play significant and expressive roles in Pisani's oeu- 
vre. Alchemists sought to discover an elixir known 
as the Philosopher's Stone which held the secret of 
immortality. Pisani, too, is fascinated by the theme 
of eternal life, which reverberates throughout his 
work. In addition, alchemical doctrine held that the 
cosmos originated in and found its interpretation in 
numbers, and that four is a magic number because 
there are four primary elements. Pisani sees Du- 
champ, Klein and Beuys as part of a hermetic and 
esoteric culture to which he dedicates his work and 
he believes that together with these artists he forms 
a system based on the magical number four. 

In 1973 Duchamp and Beuys meet, albeit in an 
antithetical sense, in a performance by Pisani, All 
the Words from the Silence of Duchamp to the Noise 
of Beuys, so titled in reference to Beuys's 1964 ac- 
tion, The Silence of Duchamp is Overrated, which 
was a criticism of Duchamp's anti-art concepts. Like 
many of Pisani's works, this performance occupies 
four spaces. In the first room a nude woman seated 
at a table bangs on plates to scare away the guinea 
pigs that eat at her feet. In the second the artist is 
painting flags next to a dead dove. A photograph of 
a nude man adorns one wall of the third room; 
across from it is a shield emblazoned with the 
words, "The hero is nobody." And finally, in the 
fourth room are two photographs, one of the Gio- 

conda, the other of Duchamp looking at the 
Gioconda. The taped laughter of Beuys echoes 
throughout all four rooms. 

Beuys's work more literally becomes the subject 
of Pisani's critical method in The Rabbit Does Not 
Love Joseph Beuys, first performed in Rome in 
1975 and subsequently at the 1976 Venice Biennale 
(see cat. nos. 77, 78). The piece features the Ger- 
man actress Karla Koenig dressed in black, recit- 
ing the sentence, "The rabbit does not love Joseph 
Beuys" in German, modulating her voice from a 
shout to a whisper, from a murmur to an exalted 
tone. In one performance she stands under a sign 
with gold-leaf letters declaring "// coniglio non ama 
Joseph Beuys," holding two tiny Jesus figures in her 
hands. In another, an illuminated, red-painted cross 
lies on the ground in front of her. The rabbit is the 
symbol of nature in these works and Beuys is the 
hero emblem, the artist-demiurge who through art 
transforms nature into culture. Thus Pisani sets up 
the equations rabbit = nature; Beuys = man and 
says "nature does not love man." 

Pisani's critical method involves the appropria- 
tion of elements from other artists and from art 
history, their analysis and reinvention. He examines 
the old meanings of these elements and creates var- 
iations on them; and he discovers new meanings as 
he integrates old symbols into new contexts. Thus, 
in The Rabbit Does Not Love Joseph Beuys, which 
refers specifically to Beuys's 1966 action Eurasia, 
Pisani takes from Beuys the half-cross, the swas- 
tika, the dead hare, the concepts of the orient and 
Occident; he integrates these elements into a new 
work which not only comments upon Beuys's piece 
but also has a new and independent significance. 
Pisani explores the concepts of orient and Occident 
in another work, a drawing of a planisphere. Bruno 
Cora explains that this drawing "shows how the neo- 
logism EURASIA came into being as the lexical 
symbiosis of EUROPE and ASIA, if with the cross 
reconstructed to scale, the letters O P E (of Europe) 
are covered as, albeit differently, in the Duchampian 
practices of homophony adopted by Beuys him- 
self." 4 A similar iconological analysis can be made 
of the pencil drawing on the theme of The Rabbit 

Does Not Love Joseph Beuys entitled The Artist 
Who Loves Nature (cat. no. 79). This drawing is 
based in part on an anonymous fourteenth-century 
Italian ink drawing of a man with similarly fantastic 
anatomy, a reference which enlarges and compli- 
cates the labyrinth of the work's associations. Here, 
as in all of Pisani's art, our analysis can only yield 
an interpretation of meaning, a suggestion of how 
we may understand its significance; indeed, our 
analysis yields further enigmas. 

In the late seventies Pisani began to displace his 
performances with a series of installations entitled 
R.C. Theatrum. Themes of his earlier artistic activity 
are reintroduced here, along with several new mo- 
tifs, most notably the exploration of the secret oc- 
cult doctrine of Rosicrucianism. Rosicrucian (R.C.) 
lore is concerned with the precepts of alchemy and 
hermeticism, antique myths, mysticism, exoticism, 
unknown lands and the Cabalistic distillation of se- 
crets hidden in numbers, words and things. At the 
age of nineteen Pisani became a disciple of an R.C. 
master, and the symbols of this esoteric society, in 
particular the rose and the cross, the swastika and 
the pyramid, have played a part in his work since 
its inception. R.C. Theatrum becomes for Pisani a 
symbolic arena, a labyrinth, in which to resolve the 
conflicts and dualities his art embodies: male and 
female, order and chaos, darkness and light, nature 
and culture, the physical and the spiritual. 

More specifically, R.C. Theatrum is the artist's 
own ironic definition of a theatre of initiation, which 
takes as its point of departure the ancient Eleusian 
mystery cult. The Greek cult, known also as the 
Mysteries of Demeter, involved a secret religious 
ritual which revealed to its initiates the mysteries 
of the goddess. The initiation was comprised of 
three stages: a preliminary initiation into the Lesser 
Mysteries, where the body was purified, the initia- 
tion proper into the Greater Mysteries and, finally, 
the epopteia. available to those who aspired to a 
higher degree of understanding. 

In "II Teatro a Coda" (see the artist's statement, 
p. 106), Pisani presents a verbal equivalent for these 
rituals. The text is a code whose secret is revealed 
to the reader who can transcend the narrative and 

understand its metaphorical meaning; because of 
its special nature, the text cannot be translated with- 
out losing this meaning. According to Pisani, the 
coda (literally "tail") symbolizes ignorance, which 
the reader/initiate must overcome. Each character 
in his theatre — the rabbit, the ballerina, the musi- 
cian who resembles Khnopff's Oedipus and accom- 
panies the dancer with the music of Satie (a fellow 
Rosicrucian), the black grand piano, the theatre it- 
self and the author of the theatre (Pisani) — has a 
tail. The theatre is divided into two sections, paral- 
leling the stages of initiation in ancient Greece: the 
Lesser Theatre, represented by a male rabbit, and 
the Greater Theatre, in which the dancer Rose Baby 
Casta wears a rabbit costume and performs a dizzy- 
ing striptease. Throughout the text Pisani engages 
in verbal punning in the manner of Duchamp. For 
example, the stripper's given name is Gio, an ironic 
counterpart to her stage name Casta, which means 
virgin, and together the names spell Giocasta, the 
mother and wife of Oedipus, one of Pisani's princi- 
ple protagonists. The theme of Rosicrucianism is 
buried within the text, embodied in the words 
"Rose" and "Croce." which are separated from 
each other by several sentences. Furthermore, the 
word "tail" and Pisani's subtitle for R.C. Theatrum, 
"theatre of artists and animals," constitutes a veiled 
reference to the Sphinx, whose riddle only Oedipus 
is able to solve. The rites of Eleusias symbolized the 
annual cycle of death and rebirth in nature, as well 
as the immortality of the soul. Here Pisani's symbol- 
ism comes full circle, for the theme of immortality 
calls to mind not only the alchemists' quest for 
the Philosopher's Stone, but also the riddle of the 
Sphinx. The elliptical nature of Pisani's logic, and 
indeed of his entire oeuvre, is thus encapsulated in 
"II Teatro a Coda." 

An installation of R.C. Theatrum at Galleria Mario 
Pieroni in Rome in 1980 took place in four rooms. 
Its central characters were two builder saints of the 
Roman basilica of the Quattro Coronati. The saints 
hold up emblems of a T-square and a compass and 
thereby serve as symbols of the dialectic between 
the straight line and the curve, between the logical 
order of reason and the more circular order of the 



soul. Here, as throughout Pisani's work, color is 
used both for its aesthetic qualities and its symbolic 
associations: the figures are red and green, compli- 
mentary colors which refer to the complimentary 
symbolic roles of the saints and also, significantly, 
call to mind the Italian flag. The saints introduce an 
area where this duality is sustained, a theatre in 
the shape of a cruciform structure, a reference to 
Beuys's divided cross in Eurasia. The two arms of 
the cross are turned inward, to form the sign of the 
labyrinth, a place of mystery and profundity, a mi- 
crocosm of life. In this room are Oedipus and the 
Sphinx as portrayed in the painting The Caresses 
by the nineteenth-century Belgian Symbolist and 
Rosicrucian Fernand Khnopff. Pisani superimposes 
a photograph of Khnopff's figures on a photograph 
of a pyramid at the entrance to the Protestant cem- 
etery in Rome (cat. no. 81). The themes of incest 
(here mother and son as well as sister and brother) 
and androgeny are reintroduced: the face of the 
Sphinx is that of Khnopff's sister and favorite model 
Marguerite, whose beauty obsessed him: the Sphinx 
embraces Oedipus and their heads touch, suggest- 
ing fusion and the impossible androgeny that would 
derive from the union of their bodies. 

The "third moment" in the Pieroni installation is 
a molded plastic maquette of Ischia, the island of 
Pisani's birth (see cat. no. 76). It is covered with a 
brilliant blue powder, the deeply resonant and elec- 
tric cobalt named International Klein Blue by Yves 
Klein. There are many striking parallels between 
Klein and Pisani. Klein's art, like Pisani's, is subtle, 
mysterious, ambiguous and hermetic, concerned 
with a complex and powerful constellation of ideas. 
As a young man, Klein was involved with Rosicru- 
cianism. A powerful sense of ritual and mystery in- 
fuse Klein's painting, sculpture and performances. 
He moved from the use of monochrome blue to the 
alchemical colors red and gold. Pisani's color, like 
Klein's, is highly symbolic. In appropriating Interna- 
tional Klein Blue, Pisani appropriates as well its 
symbolic meaning: it represents infinite space and 
suggests the sea and the sky, the most abstract ele- 
ments of nature. The intense blue and the self- 
contained quality of the island, the bright light which 

illuminates the maquette, as well as the aerial per- 
spective from which it is viewed, produce a powerful 
optical and sensory experience. This island is a re- 
interpretation of the Swiss Romantic painter Arnold 
Boecklin's The Island of the Dead. In fact, the model 
of Ischia was exhibited with a collage of Khnopff's 
Oedipus and Sphinx and Boecklin's painting at Gal- 
leria La Salita in 1980. 

When the maquette was shown at the Salvatore 
Ala Gallery in New York in 1980, a new caption pro- 
vided an additional level of meaning: "Light brings 
from the blue of the sea to the island of my infancy 
before your eyes." Thus Pisani recaptures emo- 
tional experience from his childhood in this work. 
Yet its meaning extends beyond autobiography, as 
Minima Pisani explains, ". . . the cosmic, blue 
dimension, as a vision from on high, combines with 
the idea of illumination — metaphysical light because 
of the signs emerging from the imaginary world of 
the artist. In the gallery the island landscape of 
childhood vibrates light like an apparition within 
the light of the glass windows and the blue by which 
it is permeated. The order-forming hero, Oedipus 
and the mask of masks, the Sphinx, are the privi- 
leged characters of this theatre." 

Whereas the island in the Pieroni installation rep- 
resents the room of infancy and light, the fourth and 
final moment is a nocturnal room, in which are gath- 
ered symbols of sleep and death. Significantly, solar 
and nocturnal imagery are extremely pertinent to al- 
chemical doctrine, as well as to the myth of the 
labyrinth. Here cypresses, symbols of mourning and 
immortality, rise from a sofa covered with a sepul- 
chral white fabric. The incongruity of this juxtaposi- 
tion of elements, which perhaps recalls Duchamp's 
altered Readymades. is submerged in the stately 
beauty, the aura of mystery and the sense of organic 
life of the monument Pisani has created. 

Pisani ingeniously manipulates scale for aesthetic 
ends and to create a complex and potent emo- 
tional aura. Thus, he places the tiny maquette of the 
island on the floor. Because of the model's size and 
its placement, the spectator seems to view it from 
a great distance and yet to apprehend it in all its 
immediacy. The surrounding blue is so concen- 

trated that it creates an after-image which enhances 
the size of the work. Here and in other pieces, an ob- 
ject of almost miniature scale creates the illusion of 
monumentality and an aura of emotional grandeur. 
In certain works, such as the sofa from which tiny 
trees arise, Pisani confounds our perceptions by re- 
versing normal proportional relationships. The pow- 
erful effects created alter both the space of the 
objects and the space of the viewer. 

The commanding formal dimension of Pisani's 
work transmutes his theoretical musings into poetic 
metaphor. His extraordinary synthesis of fantasy 
and rational thought creates a compelling alterna- 
tive reality. This reality is a magical world where 
architecture is theatre, where mythological charac- 
ters and themes from past art take on a new and 
highly personal relevance, where a labyrinth of sym- 
bolic associations is revealed. 


1. Thomas Bulfinch, Bulfinch's Mythology, Collier 
Books, New York, 1967, p. 155 

2. Quoted in Edward Lucie-Smith, Symbolist Art, 
New York, 1972, p. 54 

3. Arturo Schwartz, "The Alchemist Stripped Bare in 
the Bachelor, Even," in Marcel Duchamp, The 
Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Philadel- 
phia Museum of Art, 1973, pp. 82-83 

4. Bruno Cora, "Vettor Pisani: il coniglio non ama 
Joseph Beuys," Domus, no. 582, May 1978, p. 50 




Photograph of the Artist (Foto dell'artista) 


The Hero's Room (Camera dell'eroe). 1970 



Art Ends Where Nature Begins (L'arte tinisce dove 
inizia la natura). 1970 



Maria on the Runner, Elevation of the Virgin (La 
Maria alio scorrevole, elevazione delta Vergine). 




Oedipus. 1973 


Oedipus. 1973 




R.C. Theatrum. Architecture on the Edge of a River, 
a Lake or the Sea (R.C. Theatrum. Architettura in 
riva a un tiume. a un lago. o al mare). 1 980 


Battle of Light and Dark (Lotta delta luce e delle 
tenebre). 1980 




The Theatre of the Rabbit (II teatro del conlglio). 


Recitation by Karla Koenig 

Venice Biennale, 1976 


The Theatre of the Rabbit (II teatro del coniglio). 


Venice Biennale, 1976 




The Artist Who Loves Nature (L'artista che ama la 
natura), 1978 


East and West (Oriente e occidente). 1975 




Oedipus and the Sphinx (Edipo e la Sfinge). 1980 
Cemetery of the Artists and Poets, Rome 


Labyrinth (Labirinto). 1980 




The Cypresses on the Couch (I cipressi sul divano). 

1980 127 

Gilberto Zorio 


Statement by the artist 

Dear Diane: 

My works prefigure real projections ot ideas which 

promise to become concrete in images, images that 

are stimulating and self-stimulated. 

I am trying to join the components of potentiality, 
of experiences, of energies, ot desires, of expecta- 
tions, which are reflected in queries. 

The results are perhaps open and precarious 
equilibriums, ignited by emphasis and by art. 

With greetings, I remain, 
Gilberto Zorio 

Born in Andorno Micca, 1944 
Accademia di Belle Arti, Turin, degree 1970 
Teaches at Liceo Artistico, Turin, 1 968-present 
Lives and works in Turin 

Gilberto Zorio is a kind of modern-day alchemist. 
Though he does not change base materials into 
gold, he works with the most elemental and natural 
materials and transforms them into works of rare 
power and beauty. He makes visible fundamental 
elements, systems and forces of the phenomenolog- 
ical world. Perhaps most importantly, his acute 
sensitivity to the intrinsic qualities of his materials 
allows him to exploit the energies discharged by 
their interaction and to transmit these energies to 
the environment. 

Zorio's present concerns grow out of his involve- 
ment with the Arte Povera (Poor Art) movement. In 
1967 the critic Germano Celant coined the term 
Arte Povera to describe an essentially anarchic art 
created in reaction to the inexpressiveness of mass- 
produced consumer-oriented objects. In Celant's 
words, "It is a moment that tends towards decul- 
turization, regression, primitiveness and repression, 
toward the pre-logical and pre-iconographic stage 
... a tendency towards the basic elements in na- 
ture . . . and in life . . . and in behavior. . . ."' The 
adherents of Arte Povera focused upon life and the 
natural processes: they shared in common an inter- 
est in primary elements and simple life forms — 
earth, fire, water, light, animals, vegetables and 

minerals. The artists explored these subjects not 
for illustrative or theoretical purposes, but to dis- 
cover and extol their intrinsic, magical worth. In so 
doing, they broadened their knowledge of the world 
and, more importantly, rediscovered themselves. 
Arte Povera emphasized an anthropomorphic point 
of view and affirmed that in art the process rather 
than the product was primary. 

Though Zorio moved beyond Arte Povera in the 
course of achieving his mature artistic identity, he 
retained a strong interest in energy, tension and 
process. In his words, "Energy is the possibility of 
filling emptiness, the possibility of emptying full- 
ness, the possibility of planning past, present and 
future, the possibility of letting the known and un- 
known function of language become operative." 2 
Thus the potential of energy lies at the crux of 
Zorio's expression. He conveys this energy through 
very direct presentation of materials and through 
the repeated use of a small number of constant im- 
ages, materials and themes: the archetypal images 
of the star and the javelin (both energy equivalents), 
the materials metal, light, chemicals, animal hide, 
glass and terra-cotta, the theme of communication. 
By basing his compositions on the tenuous equilib- 
rium of elements, he introduces extreme tension 
into his sculpture. And he creates situations or sys- 
tems in which natural processes, usually physical or 
chemical reactions involving electricity, oxidation, 
evaporation or distillation, take place. These situa- 
tions or systems in some instances operate autono- 
mously, in others with the interference of the viewer. 
The incorporation of process brings the element of 
time into the pieces, which in turn lends them an 
anthropomorphic dimension: time passes as the 
process evolves, and the way the sculpture marks 
time is related to human experience. By often using 
extremely fragile materials in precarious situations, 
Zorio introduces a sense of the ephemeral into the 
work, a feeling of the possibility of change. 

Zorio's various treatments of the recurrent motif of 
the star reveal these concerns. The star, created of 
the most fragile materials — crystal, terra-cotta, light 
— (cat. no. 90) works both as symbol and sign, is 
an energy system in itself and has an anthropomor- 

phic meaning as it relates to man and his universe. 
In its different manifestations, Zorio's star may be 
a closed system impelled or sustained by its own 
internal laws, for example, the star of 1974 com- 
prised of five metal javelins which stand alone, sup- 
ported by their own stresses and counterstresses. 
Others, such as Laser Star, 1975, are dependent on 
external interference. The image in Laser Star ex- 
ists only as a projection of light. The viewer be- 
comes part of the system, allowing the star to take 
shape or causing it to disappear as his or her pres- 
ence interrupts the laser beam. Through this par- 
ticipation the viewer is also incorporated into the 
work as an energy element. As Zorio has stated, 
". . . in my work, energy is neither an abstract 
note nor something purely physical, but it implies a 
total human dimension, an anthropomorphic dimen- 
sion. . . ." 3 He has sometimes used cobalt chloride, 
which causes the sculptures' surfaces to change 
color in response to atmospheric humidity. Again 
the human presence varies the system: the viewer's 
presence alters the work by causing a meteorologi- 
cal change. Thus Zorio establishes an interdepen- 
dent relationship between his sculpture and the 
viewer: each affects the other. 

In a more recent work entitled Sifnos Stromboli, 
1981 (cat. no. 91), chloric acid and water are com- 
bined in a "crucible of fusion," a twisted, amphora- 
like form suspended in midair at the triangular 
junction of three metal poles which are anchored 
to the walls and floor. An elegant copper arc joins 
this crucible to a terra-cotta container on the floor 
which holds copper sulfate and water. Green salts 
from the acid in the crucible will coat one end of 
the arc, while the copper sulfate emulsion in the 
terra-cotta container will slowly cause blue crystals 
to form on the other end. The salt and crystals will 
ascend the arc over a period of time and eventually 
they will meet. 

From 1968 through 1971 Zorio worked with words, 
exploring both the physical images of language and 
the less tangible implications of its meanings. Zorio 
executed several pieces entitled Odio (Hale), a word 
fraught with emotional connotations. These works 
took the form of hatchet cuts made in gallery walls, 

writing in string hammered into lead ingot and a 
brand on the artist's forehead. Since the late six- 
ties Zorio has also been making systems For Puri- 
fying Words (cat. nos. 84, 86-90, 92, 94), more ab- 
stract works which focus on processes of communi- 
cation. In these works the viewer speaks into a 
funnel-shaped mouthpiece attached to a vessel con- 
taining alcohol; the words are filtered through the 
alcohol and emerge "metaphorically purified," 
cleansed of any ideological residue, to enter a free 
state. The dual nature of alcohol parallels the sym- 
bolic meaning of the works themselves: both purify 
and both are essences or spirits obtained by dis- 

Zorio intends his sculpture to operate on multiple 
levels. The purely formal, visual aspect of his sculp- 
ture is commanding and has an independent sig- 
nificance. Yet he also deliberately uses form, space 
and materials to reinforce thematic intent. More- 
over, forms and materials are exploited for con- 
tradictory purposes; they are both seductive and 
menacing. The mellow patinae of surfaces, the gen- 
tle, seemingly organic swellings and variegated tex- 
tures of terra-cotta mounds, the luster of animal 
hides are alluring and mesmerizing. Pleasing too 
are the gleam of his metal surfaces (often enhanced 
by spotlights which are part of the sculptures), the 
precarious suspension in space of the most fragile 
forms (a handblown pyrex beaker, for example, cat. 
nos. 88, 89) and the graceful, calligraphic drawing 
in space with metal. At the same time, bare electric 
wires, spikes or nails, javelins and finely honed 
metal rods suggest underlying primitivism and vio- 
lence. Because it implies the release of energy and 
tension, violence is not only threatening but under- 
scores the potential forces which are central to 
Zorio's oeuvre. 

Zorio has always made beautiful drawings whose 
images are as fluid and elegant as the forms of his 
sculpture. In the past he has worked on wax, parch- 
ment and leather but most recently has been using 
engraving paper. Engraving paper is dense, thick 
and absorbent and these properties are particularly 
appropriate because Zorio draws with many of the 
highly textured, grainy materials of his sculpture — 



such as volcanic ash from Stromboli, powdered 
copper mixed with varnish, acid and charcoal. Three 
separate pieces of paper comprise several of the 
drawings (for example, cat. nos. 92, 93); the image 
comes to life only when the papers are finally joined 
together. In this way the drawings are like the sculp- 
ture, which is often about disparate elements that 
ultimately become a unified whole. The angling of 
the three papers endows the finished drawing with a 
certain degree of three-dimensionality, a powerful 
dynamism and a lyrical grace. Zorio's drawings are 
not studies for sculpture but parallel the sculptures 
in the ideas they explore. There is a reciprocal re- 
lationship between the works in the two media — 
the drawings influence the sculptures and the sculp- 
tures influence the drawings. 

Zorio uses space as a raw material: his sculptures 
create their own environments without being en- 
vironmental. They reach out and attach themselves 
to the world. Zorio says, "I like to talk of fluid and 
elastic things, things without lateral and formal 
perimeters." 4 Perhaps Zorio's most impressive and 
moving achievement is his ability to convey extreme 
power with minimal means. The restrained use of 
form and the highly charged results which ensue 
endow the sculpture simultaneously with intensity 
and poetry. Reductive purism and simplicity propa- 
gate a new beauty and vitality which enlarge the 
traditional definition of sculpture and its communi- 
cative dimension. 


1. Celant, Arte Povera, 1969, p. 230 

2. Trini, Dafa, 1973, p. 63 

3. Luzern, one-man exh. cat., 1976, p. 72 

4. Celant. Arte Povera, p. 185 

Selected Group Exhibitions 

Galleria Sperone, Galleria Stein, II Punto, Turin, 
Contemplazione, December 1967. Catalogue with 
text by Daniela Palazzoli 

Universita di Genova, Arte Povera, December 1967 

Galleria de Foscherari, Bologna, Arte Povera. Feb- 
ruary 1968. Catalogue with texts by Renato Barilli 
and Germano Celant 

Stadtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf, Prospect 68, 
September 1968 

Galleria RA3, Amalfi, Rassegna d'arti figurative: 
Arte Povera — Azione Povere, October 1968. Cata- 
logue with texts by Giovanni M. Accame, Achille 
Bonito Oliva, Germano Celant. Gillo Dorfles, Piero 
Gilardi. Filiberto Menna and Tommaso Trini 

Leo Castelli Warehouse, New York, Nine at Castelli, 
December 1968 

Prague, One hundred Works ot Art from Futurism to 
Today, December 1968. Traveled to Stockholm, Ber- 
lin and Rome 

Kunsthalle Bern, When Attitudes Become Form, 
March-April 1969. Catalogue with texts by Scott 
Burton. Gregoire Muller, John A. Murphy, Harald 
Szeemann and Tommaso Trini 

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. New York, 
Nine Young Artists: Theodoron Awards, May 24- 
June 29, 1969. Catalogue with texts by Edward F. 
Fry and Diane Waldman 

Museum Folkwang. Essen, Verbogene Strukturen, 
May-June 1969 

Galleria Sperone, Turin, Mostra collettiva. October- 
November 1969 

Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Bologna, 3° Biennale della 
giovane pittura, January-February 1970 

Tokyo Metropolitan Art Gallery, Biennial '70. May 
1970. Traveled to Kyoto Municipal Art Museum; 
Aichi Prefectural Art Gallery, Nagoya; Fukuoka 
Prefectural Culture House 

Kunstmuseum Luzern, Processi di pensiero vis- 
ualizzati: Junge italienische avantgarde. May-July 

1970. Catalogue with texts by Jean-Christophe 
Ammann and Germano Celant 

Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Turin, Conceptual 
Art. Arte Povera. Land Art. June-July 1970. Cata- 
logue with texts by Germano Celant, Lucy Lippard 
and A. Passoni 

Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome. Vitalita del nega- 
tivo nell'arte italiana 1960-1970. November 1970- 
January 1971. Catalogue with texts by Giulio Carlo 
Argan. Alberto Boatto. Achille Bonito Oliva, Maurizio 
Calvesi, Gillo Dorfles. Filiberto Menna and C. Vivaldi 

Kunstverein Miinchen, Munich, Arte Povera: 13 
italienische Kunstler, May-June 1971. Catalogue 
with text by Germano Celant 

Pare Floral de Paris. Bois de Vincennes, Septieme 
Biennale de Paris: Manifestation biennale et Inter- 
nationale des jeunes artistes. September-November 

1971. Catalogue with text by Achille Bonito Oliva 

Museo de Arte Moderno de la Ciudad de Buenos 
Aires, Arte de Sistema, October 1971. Catalogue 
with text by J. Glusberg 

John Weber Gallery, New York, De Europa, April 

San Nicolo, Spoleto, 420 West Broadway it Spoleto 
Festival, June 1972 

Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany, Docu- 
menta V. June-October 1972. Catalogue 

Galerie MTL, Brussels, Huit Italiens/Acht Italianen, 
January-February 1973. Traveled to Art and Project, 

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland Gallery, Bel- 
fast, An Exhibition of New Italian Art, November 
1973. Traveled to The David Hendricks Gallery, 

Kunsthalle Kbln, Cologne, Projekt '74, Kunst bleibt 
Kunst: Aspekte internationaler Kunst am Anfang der 
70er Jahre, July-September 1974. Catalogue with 
texts by M. Gruterich, W. Herzongenrath, D. Ronte, 
M. Schneckenburger, A. Schug and E. Weiss 

Stadtische Kunsthalle, Dusseldorf, Prospectretro- 
spect, Europa 1946-1976, October 1976 

Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Turin, Arte in Italia 
1960-1977, May-September 1977. Catalogue with 
texts by Francesca Alinovi, Renato Barilli, Antonio 
Del Guercio and Filiberto Menna 

The Art Institute of Chicago, Europe in the Seven- 
ties: Aspects of Recent Art, September-October 
1977. Traveled to The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculp- 
ture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, 
D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Fort 
Worth Art Museum; Contemporary Arts Center, 

Venice, La Biennale di Venezia: Dalla natura all'arte, 
dall'arte alia natura, June 1978. Catalogue with 
texts by Jean-Christophe Ammann, Achille Bonito 
Oliva, Antonio Del Guercio and Filiberto Menna 

Castello Colonna, Genazzano, Le Stanze, November 
1979. Catalogue with text by Achille Bonito Oliva 

Halle fur internationale neue Kunst, Zurich, Luciano 
Fabro/Wolfgang Laib/Gerhard Merz/Gilberto 
Zorio. March 1980 

Venice, La Biennale di Venezia: Aperto '80, Art in 
the Seventies, June 1980. Catalogue with texts by 
Achille Bonito Oliva, Michael Compton, Martin Kunz 
and Harald Szeemann 

Museum Van Hedendaagse Kunst, Gand, Kunst in 
Europa na '68, June-August 1980. Traveled to Cen- 

trum voor Kunst en Cultuur, St.-Pietersplein. Cata- 
logue with texts by Germano Celant, Johannes 
Cladders, Piet Van Daalen, Rita Dubois, Karel J. 
Geirlandt, Jan Hoet, Sandy Nairne and Jean Pierre 
Van Tieghem 

Galerie Walter Storms, Munich, Villingen, December 
1980. Catalogue with text by Walter Storms 

Galleria Sperone, Turin, January 1981 

Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre d'Art et de 
Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, Identite italienne: 
I' art en Italie depuis 1959, June-September 1981. 
Catalogue with text by Germano Celant 

Galerie Walter Storms, Munich, April 1982 

Selected One-Man Exhibitions 

Galleria Sperone, Turin, November 1967. Catalogue 
with text by Tommaso Trini; February 1969; May 
1971 ; December 1973; January 1974; November 

Centro Colautti, Salerno, May 1968. Catalogue with 
text by Alberto Boatto 

Galerie Sonnabend, Paris, February 1969 

Galleria Toselli, Milan, May 1970; May 1974 

Galleria Flori, Florence, March 1971 

Modern Art Agency, Naples, June-July 1971 

Incontri Internazionali d'Arte, Palazzo Taverna, 
Rome, December 1971 

Galerie MTL, Brussels, December 1973 

Galleria dell'Ariete, Milan, October 1975 

Kunstmuseum Luzern, Gilberto Zorio, May-June 
1 976. Catalogue with texts by Jean-Christophe 
Ammann, Ugo Castagnotto and Werner Lippert 

Galleria Schema, Florence, October 1976 

Studio De Ambrogi/Cavellini, Milan, December 

Galleria Del Tritone, Biella, January 1977; April 

Studio G7, Bologna, March 1977; April 1980 

Studio Cesare Manzo, Pescara, December 1977 

Piero Cavellini, Brescia, January 1978 

Galerie Albert Baronian, Brussels, February 1978; 

Galerie Eric Fabre, Paris, February 1978; 1980 

Galerie 't Venster, Rotterdam, March 1978 

Carlo Grossetti Studio, Milan, April 1978 

Piero Cavellini, Milan, April 1978 



Salone Annunciata, Milan, April 1978 

Galleria Christian Stein, Turin, February 1979 

Jean & Karen Bernier, Athens, February 1979; 
November 1980 

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Gilberto Zorio, 
March-May 1979. Catalogue with text by Jean- 
Christophe Ammann 

Emilio Mazzoli, Modena, September 1979 
Galleria De Crescenzo, Rome, February 1980 
Galleria Salvatore Ala, Milan, February 1981 
Galerie Meyer-Hahn, Dusseldorf, May 1981 
Galerie Rudiger Schottle, Munich, July 1981 
Sonnabend Gallery, New York, October 1981 

Galerie Appel und Furtsch, Frankfurt, November- 
December 1981. Catalogue with text by Werner 

Selected Bibliography 


'•Gilberto Zorio," Extra, no. 5, July 1975, pp. 32-44 
"Gilberto Zorio," Data, no. 32, Summer 1978, p. 30 


Newspapers and Periodicals 

Tommaso Trini, "La scuola di Torino," Domus, no. 
457, December 1967, p. 69 

Ed Sommer, "Prospect 68 and Kunstmarkt 68," Art 
International, vol. 13, February 1968, p. 32 

Piero Gilardi, "Primary Energy and the 'Micro- 
emotive Artists,' " Arts Magazine, vol. 43, Septem- 
ber-October 1968, pp. 48-52 

Tommaso Trini, "Nuovo alfabeto per corpo e 
materia," Domus, no. 470, January 1969, p. 47 

Emily Wasserman, "Theodoron Awards," Artforum. 
vol. 8, September 1969, p. 58 

Germano Celant, "48 Page Exhibition," Studio, no. 
180, July 1970, p. 16 

A. Henze, "Vitalita del negativo nell'arte italiana 
1960-1970: Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rom," Das 
Kunstwerk, no. 2, March 14, 1971, pp. 87-88, 91, 107 

Gillo Dorfles, "Una mostra romana: Vitalita del 
negativo nell'arte italiana," Art International, vol. 15, 
April 1971, pp. 15-18 

Jole de Sanna, "Gilberto Zorio: corpo di energia" 
Data, vol. 2, April 1972, pp. 16-23 

Tommaso Trini, "Anselmo, Penone, Zorio e le nuove 
fonti d'energia per il deserto dell'arte," Data, no. 9. 
Autumn 1973, pp. 62-67 

Mirella Bandini, "La Stella di Zorio," Data, no. 24, 
December 1976, pp. 48-51 

Roberto Daolio. "Energia in forma di Stella," 
G 7 Studio, vol. II, March 1977, pp. 4-7 

Achille Bonito Oliva, "Process, Concept and Be- 
haviour in Italian Art," Studio International, no. 191, 
January-February 1976, pp. 3-11 

Jan van der Marck, "Inside Europe Outside 
Europe," Artforum, vol. 16, January 1978, pp. 48-55 

Corinna Ferrari, "Stanze del Castello," Domus, no. 
604, March 1980, p. 55 

Luciana Rogozinski, "Gilberto Zorio," G 7 Studio. 
vol. V, March 1980, pp. 4-7 

Laura Cherubini, "The Rooms: Castello Colonna/ 
Genazzano," Flash Art, no. 96-97, March-April 1980, 
pp. 42-43 

R. G. Lambarelli, "Gilberto Zorio," Segno, no. 15, 
March-April 1980, p. 24 

Bernard Marcelis, "I muri di Gent: 'Kunst in Europa 
na '68,' " Domus, no. 609, September 1980, p. 48 

Renato Barilli, Espresso, no. 12, March 29, 1981. 
p. 99 

Flaminio Gualdoni, "Gilberto Zorio," G 7 Studio, 
vol. VI, June 1981, pp. 4-5 

Luciana Rogozinski, "Gilberto Zorio: Galleria Ala, 
Milan," Artlorum, vol. 19, Summer 1981, p. 102 

Ross Skoggard, "Gilberto Zorio at Sonnabend," Art 
in America, no. 10, December 1981, p. 143 


Germano Celant, Arte Povera, Milan, 1969 

Achille Bonito Oliva, Europa/ America. Milan, 1976, 

p. 298 

Maurizio Calvesi, Avanguardia di massa. Milan, 1978 

Schema intormazione. Politic-art, Galleria Schema, 
Florence, 1978 


To Purify Words (Per purilicare le parole). 1978 
Terra-cotta, metal spears, lamp and alcohol, 
82 1 /2 x51 x19%" (210 x130 x50 cm.) 
Collection Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 




Circle and Spear (Cerchio e giavellotto). 1978 
Terra-cotta with metal spear, 102V4 x 35" (260 x 
89 cm.) 
Collection Albert Baronian, Brussels 


To Purify Words (Per purilicare le parole). 1 979 
Parchment, copper balance, electric light bulb and 
alcohol, 236 x 169 x 86 1 / 2 " (600 x 430 x 220 cm.) 
Courtesy Karen & Jean Bernier, Athens 




To Purify Words (Per purilicare le parole). 1980 
Terra-cotta, leather, metal tube and alcohol. 
81% x71 x15%" (210 x 180 x40 cm.) 
Collection of the artist 


To Purity Words (Per purilicare le parole). 1980 
Leather, iron rod. pyrex container and alcohol. 
204 3 /i x 157V2" (520x400 cm.) 
Courtesy Galleria Salvatore Ala, Milan 




To Purify Words (Per purilicare le parole). 1980 
Metal spears, leather and pyrex container, 
165 1 /4 x86% x71" (420 x220 x180 cm.) 
Courtesy Karen & Jean Bernler, Athens 


Star (To Purify Words) (Stella [per purificare le 
parole]). 1980 

Terra-cotta and metal, 195" (495 cm.) d. 

Courtesy Sonnabend Gallery, New York 




Silnos Stromboli. 1981 
Terra-cotta, copper, iron and chloric acid, 
196% x216'/2" (500 x550 cm.) 
Courtesy Sonnabend Gallery, New York 


To Purify Words (Per purilicare le parole). 1981 
Volcanic ash from Stromboli, varnish and charcoal 
on engraving paper, ca. 64% x 67%" (165 x 172 cm. 
Collection of the artist 




Melting Pot (Crogiuolo). 1981 

Ink, ash, charcoal and copper varnish on engraving 
paper, ca. 50 1 /4 x 74" (127.5 x 187.9 cm.) 
Collection of the artist 


To Purify Words (Per purificare le parole). 1 981 
Terra-cotta, wax and alcohol, 
26 x 45 x 9" (66 x 1 14 x 22.8 cm.) 
Courtesy Sonnabend Gallery, New York 


Photographic Credits 


Courtesy Salvatore Ala Gallery, New York: 

cat. no. 61 

Courtesy Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples: 

cat. no. 34. 39 

Cesare Bastelli: cat. nos. 42-44, 50 

Maria Benelli, Naples: cat. nos. 35, 38 

Courtesy Bruno Bischofberger: cat. nos. 26, 29 

Giorgio Colombo: cat. no. 48 

Bevan Davies, New York: cat. no. 47 

Lanfranco Secco Suardo: cat. nos. 2, 49, 56 

Courtesy Giuseppe Penone: cat. no. 64 

Courtesy Vettor Pisani: cat. nos. 73, 74, 76-78 

Paolo Mussat Sartor. Turin: 

cat. nos. 66, 84, 85. 88,89 

Courtesy Sperone Westwater Fischer, New York: 

cat. nos. 1, 7,8. 14,20, 21 

Courtesy Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam: cat. no. 23 

Alan Zindman, New York: cat. no. 13 

Black and white 

Courtesy Salvatore Ala Gallery, New York: 

cat. nos. 58, 60 

Courtesy Galleria Lucio Amelio, Naples: 

cat. nos. 31. 33, 36 

Maria Benelli. Naples: cat. nos. 30, 32, 40, 41 

Giorgio Colombo: cat. no. 55 

Bevan Davies, New York: cat. no. 18 

Courtesy Giuliana De Crescenzo. Rome: cat. no. 37 

Courtesy Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London: 

cat. nos. 15-17 

Carmelo Guadagno and David Heald, 

cat. nos. 53, 92, 93 

Antonio Guerra: cat. no. 51 

Lanfranco Secco Suardo: cat. no. 54 

Courtesy Giuseppe Penone: cat. nos. 63. 68 

Kira Perov: cat. no. 46 

Courtesy Vettor Pisani: cat. nos. 69, 70-72, 75, 79-83 

Sergio Pucci: cat. no. 52 

Paolo Mussat Sartor. Turin: 

cat. nos. 57, 62. 65, 67, 86 

Courtesy Sperone Westwater Fischer, New York: 

cat. nos. 3-6, 9-12, 24, 25, 27, 28 

Courtesy Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam: 

cat. nos. 19, 22 

Gwenn Thomas. New York: cat. no. 45 

Steven Tucker, New York: cat. no. 59 

Alan Zindman, New York: cat. nos. 5, 90. 91 . 94 

Courtesy Gilberto Zorio: cat. no. 87 

Exhibition 82/2 

5,000 copies of this catalogue, designed by 

Malcolm Grear Designers, typeset by 

Dumar Typesetting, Inc., have been printed by 

Eastern Press in March 1982 for 

the Trustees of The Solomon R, Guggenheim 

Foundation on the occasion of 

Italian Art Now: An American Perspective, 

1982 Exxon International Exhibition 

N6918 .W3 1982 
Italian art now 
Waldman, Diane. 

N6918 .W3 1982 
Italian art now 
Waldman, Diane. 



Solomon R Guggenheim Museum Library 


The Solomon Ft. Guggenheim Museum, New York